Trump Hits Media on Coronavirus as He Prepares an Evening News Conference

WASHINGTON — President Trump blamed the media on Wednesday for “doing everything possible” to make the coronavirus “look as bad as possible,” even as he said his administration was “doing a great job” with a virus that the Centers for Disease Control said would inevitably hit American shores.

Mr. Trump set a 6 p.m. White House news conference to discuss the virus with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But his reassurances have not calmed global markets, which were down sharply overseas Wednesday morning. A day after its worst one-day slide in two years, the S&P 500 closed down 3 percent on Tuesday, a decline that put the index deeper in the red for 2020.

With cabinet secretaries fanning out on Capitol Hill, Wednesday promised more sharp questioning about the administration’s preparedness for a virus that has now infected more than 81,000 people globally and killed more than 2,700. The White House has requested $1.25 billion in new funds to prepare for coronavirus, but Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, plans to increase that dramatically, to $8.5 billion in new emergency funds.

The politics of coronavirus shifted drastically on Tuesday when Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that “it’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.”

She said that hospitals and schools should begin preparing for an outbreak, and that she had even spoken to her own family about “significant disruption of our lives.”

  • Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • An Omaha hospital that drew attention for treating Ebola patients is now playing a key role again.
    • The outbreak has left some Asian-Americans feeling an unsettling level of public scrutiny.
    • There was a race to contain the disease after one man’s cough became confirmation of America’s first case.
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On Wednesday, Moody’s Analytics said it now sees a 40 percent chance that the virus will break containment in China and grow into a global pandemic that would push the United States and the world into a recession. Its chief economist, Mark Zandi, said in a research note that he expected the virus to reduce American economic growth by 0.2 percentage points this year — and that a “black swan” recession now looked uncomfortably possible.

“The economy was already fragile before the outbreak and vulnerable to anything that did not stick to script,” he wrote. “Covid-19 is way off script.”

Mr. Trump’s attempts to calm the American public have also occasionally been laced with a degree of alarm.

“There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die,” Mr. Trump said about the outbreak at a news conference in India on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump has in recent days been frustrated by the threat of the virus, expressing it to a number of advisers. He is looking for someone new to manage the administration’s response efforts, which have so far been overseen by a task force led by Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, according to a person familiar with the effort.

On Tuesday, Mr. Azar told a Senate panel that medical supplies were badly needed for the nation’s emergency stockpile, including 300 million masks for health care workers alone, he said.

Mr. Azar was visiting the House on Wednesday, where he was expected to be met by bipartisan concern over the Trump administration’s response so far.

At a morning hearing on his department’s budget, lawmakers will question him about public health-related cuts the Trump administration has proposed, in addition to his plans to fund the coronavirus response, for which the White House has sought billions of dollars from Congress.

A chart obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday shows that Mr. Azar is proposing shuffling money from key health programs to fund the administration’s response, including some that are central to Mr. Trump’s agenda, like H.I.V. and AIDS prevention, rural health and cancer research.

Mr. Azar will most likely defend broader public health cuts separate from the White House’s plans to transfer money to handle coronavirus efforts. The president’s budget request for the fiscal year that begins in October would slash the C.D.C.’s budget by almost 16 percent, and the Health and Human Services Department’s by almost 10 percent. Tens of millions of dollars would come from the department’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response and its Hospital Preparedness Program, which helps hospitals handle surges of patients during disease outbreaks.

Maggie Haberman, Jim Tankersley and Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.