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Trump accuses Democrats of 'politicizing' coronavirus outbreak

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Trump accuses Democrats of 'politicizing' coronavirus outbreak
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses supporters at a rally at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 29 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump told his supporters in South Carolina that the United States is "totally prepared" for the coronavirus and accused Democrats of "politicizing" the disease's outbreak.

His remarks on the COVID-19 disease came Friday night during a rally at the North Charleston Coliseum, one day before the state held its Democratic primary.

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"The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They're politicizing it. They don't have any clue. They can't even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can't," Trump said, referring to the botched Iowa caucuses in which there was a delay in reporting the results.

"One of my people came up to me and said, 'Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.' That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.

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"This is their new hoax."

Some Democrats, including those running for president in South Carolina's primary election Saturday, have criticized the Trump administration for its response to the coronavirus, which has sickened 22 people in the United States and another 47 repatriated to the country from elsewhere. Wall Street took a hit on COVID-19 fears this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average taking its biggest slide since the 2008 financial crisis.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaking in Charleston, addressed the economic threat of the outbreak.

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"We're looking at a serious economic downturn ... and the Trump administration is bungling every aspect," she said. "I have a plan to combat this outbreak and make sure our economy works for everyone."

Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the outbreak. Speaking during a press briefing Wednesday, Trump said that many of the people who have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus are doing "very well."

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that all state and local public health laboratories across the country will have the capability to test for the virus by the end of next week.

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The announcement comes as officials face criticism over shortages of working test kits in several states with hundreds of suspected cases of the virus, most notably California. UPI reported Thursday that California currently has 8,400 state residents under self-quarantine but only 200 kits available to test for the virus.

According to Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, states that received kits as part of the initial batch distributed two weeks ago will be able to use them under a modified testing protocol. Those kits yielded inconclusive results during quality assurance checks for one of their three testing components, while the other two were deemed effective.

On Friday, three states -- California, Oregon and Washington -- reported new cases of community-spread coronavirus. That means the patients had no history of travel to the primarily affected countries nor did they have any interaction with known confirmed cases in the United States.

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The total number of such cases is now four, with the additional case reported earlier in the week in California's Solano County.

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