President Donald Trump said Friday that Democrats are using the virulent coronavirus as a "hoax" to damage him and his administration.
"The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus," he said from a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina.
"One of my people came up to me and said 'Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn't work out too well.' They couldn't do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation," he continued.
"This is their new hoax," he said, referring to the coronavirus.
The disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 2,800 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. The latest reports from the World Health Organization show the pace of new cases in China slowing, but jumping in South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran.
In the U.S., the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced a third case of coronavirus in the county Friday evening. The announcement brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in California to 10 and the total number of cases in the U.S. to 63, most of which were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and evacuees from Wuhan.
"We are magnificently organized with the best professionals in the world," Trump said of the administration's preparations to help contain the spread of the virus.
"We have to take it very, very seriously ... We are preparing for the worst," he continued. "My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to prevent the spread of this illness in the United States. We are ready. We are ready. Totally ready."
In other headlines, a Google employee tested positive for the coronavirus, the company said Friday. New Zealand and Nigeria reported overnight their first coronavirus cases.
"We will do everything in our power to keep the infection and those carrying the infection from entering our country. We have no choice," Trump said. "Whether it's the virus we're talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans."
Later, on Saturday, the president also sought to clarify his use of the word "hoax" in a press conference at the White House.
"The 'hoax' was used with respect to Democrats and what they were saying," Trump said. "It was a 'hoax,' what they were saying."
— CNBC's Riya Bhattacharjee contributed reporting.
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