Dr. Ben Carson, a member of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, said in an exclusive interview on “Sunday Morning Futures” that the coronavirus “certainly has the potential to be severe and that’s one of the reasons that the task force meets every day.”
Carson, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, made the comment as the number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 400, with cases in about half of the states. The total U.S. death toll has reached 19.
“We’re in communication with a lot of experts around the country in terms of the best ways to contain this,” Carson told host Maria Bartiromo. “Obviously if we don’t use best practices to contain the spread, then we will have a horrendous situation, but we are very cognizant of that.”
“We meet on a daily basis, we evaluate the information and we make recommendations based on the evidence,” he continued.
Carson noted on Sunday “that people who are elderly and who have underlying problems that affect their immune system are much more vulnerable than others.”
He added that health officials also know that the virus can be passed on by people who have “little in the way of symptomatology and in some cases no symptomatology at all.”
“We need to use that information appropriately,” he continued. “If you go to a place where there’s a lot of people and you have a compromised immune system, maybe you need to rethink that.”
“You certainly should rethink getting on a cruise ship, you should think about, taking an airplane trip a long distance, particularly if you’re compromised in some way,” he went on to say.
When Bartiromo asked Carson if a person who has been overseas should get tested when they come back to America Carson answered, “I think it kind of depends on where you’ve been.”
“Obviously if you’ve been to northern Italy or someplace like that you really want to think about that seriously,” he explained.
The outbreak broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21 and currently, there are more than 5,800 cases and 233 coronavirus related deaths in the country, according to Italy’s civil protection agency.
“People need to learn how to be responsible,” Carson said on Sunday. “Self-quarantine yourself if you know that you’ve been to one of the dangerous areas. You don’t want to spread that.”
When Bartiromo asked Carson if the United States, specifically healthcare workers, are limited on protective equipment like masks and gloves because many are produced in China he said, “Right now the masks are a bit of a problem.”
“The manufacturers are ramping up very considerably,” he noted, acknowledging that “there are a few obstacles that are in the way, which we are working on now to remove.”
“The other types of protective gear we seem to have plenty of them, but we’re making sure the supply chains are adequate,” Carson said, adding that the U.S. is looking for alternatives to products coming from China, where the new virus is thought to have originated.
“In terms of critical supply chains, let’s make sure that we’re not depending on others,” he said. “It’s the same thing for oil. We used to be so dependent on Iran, it affected the way that we reacted to things that were going on in the Middle East. That’s not the case anymore.”
“The same will apply with the supply chain items and we have a lot of very creative and innovative people in this country, so we need to rely on them to provide the materials that we need,” he continued.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.