President Donald Trump defended the "perfectly coordinated" US response to Sunday's coronavirus epidemic amid fierce criticism of health cuts and strategic mistakes that could not curb its rapid spread.
The virus has reached 30 states, with Oregon declaring a state of emergency by Sunday at the latest and 60 million people in California and New York under crisis measures.
Two other deaths were reported in Washington State – both related to a virus-infected nursing home near Seattle – and the nationwide number increased to at least 21.
Trump, accused of spreading misinformation about the outbreak, accused the media in a tweet of "making his government look bad" as criticism increased with nearly 500 recorded cases.
"We have a perfectly coordinated and well-coordinated plan for our attack on CoronaVirus in the White House," Trump tweeted.
We have a perfectly coordinated and well-coordinated plan for our attack on CoronaVirus in the White House. We moved VERY early to close borders on certain areas, which was a gift from God. V.P. does a great job. The Fake News Media do everything they can to make us look bad. Sad!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), March 8, 2020
"We moved VERY early to close borders on certain areas, which was a gift from God. V.P. is doing a great job. The Fake News Media are doing everything they can to make us look bad. Sorry!"
But Republican Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan criticized Trump and told NBC that the President "was not communicating the way I would and how I might want to".
The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, said the federal health authorities were "caught" and "handcuffed" the responsiveness of individual states.
"Your news is everywhere, frankly," he told Fox News.
Trump has been heavily reprimanded for repeatedly contradicting the advice of his government's experts in his public statements about the corona virus.
He has downplayed the threat of the epidemic, which has killed more than 3,500 people since its arrival in China, and the mortality rate was "wrong".
As of early February, the Trump administration focused on cutting off travel from China and imposing quarantines to keep the virus out of the U.S.
Epidemiologists say that initial containment efforts may have slowed the arrival of the virus, but accuse the White House of wasting time on a strategy that is more about political narrative than domestic readiness.
Major complaints included the lack of tests caused by the Disease Control and Prevention Centers (CDC), which developed their own faulty kits, rather than using those approved by the World Health Organization.
In the meantime, critics point to profound cuts by the CDC and the deletion of a White House position on the National Security Council to respond to pandemics.
Oregon was the last state to declare an emergency as the number of patients in the northwestern state rose to 14.
Governor Kate Brown said measures to "unlock" key resources would remain in effect for at least 60 days.
Block entire cities
Officials reported that two people had tested positive for the new corona virus at the recent conservative political action conference attended by Trump and the government's coronavirus point man, Vice President Mike Pence.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC that officials "dramatically accelerate" coronavirus testing.
He told Fox News that the possibility of following Italy's example of blocking large parts of the population or even entire cities cannot be ruled out.
"You don't want to worry people, but given the spread we've seen, anything is possible," he said.
California was preparing to disembark passengers from the Grand Princess, a virus-infected cruise ship with 21 novel coronavirus infections among the 3,500 people on board.
It is scheduled to dock in Oakland on Monday after four days off the coast of nearby San Francisco.
Passengers "are not released to the general public," but are taken either for treatment in hospitals or to federal "isolation" facilities in California, Texas, and Georgia, officials said on Sunday.
Hundreds of foreign passengers are returned to their countries.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)