Trump’s coronavirus gesture as US panics
AS THE United States prepares for the worst, President Donald Trump has donated part of his salary to help battle the coronavirus outbreak.
When he took office, Mr Trump declared that he wouldn't be pocketing his pay and instead divert it to charities.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham shared a picture of a cheque for $US100,000 ($A151,000) made out to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the equivalent of his fourth quarter salary.
"Honoring that promise and to further protect the American people, he is donating his 2019 Q4 salary to (the Department) to support the efforts being undertaken to confront, contain, and combat (coronavirus)," Ms Grisham wrote.
Nine people have died from coronavirus - all in the state of Washington in the country's northwest - and there are at least 88 confirmed cases nationally.
A task force established to respond to the crisis has expressed "great concern" that there will be more human-to-human transmissions of the potentially deadly disease.
It comes as Mr Trump received a briefing with officials from the National Institute of Health and met with representatives from major pharmaceutical companies to discuss the development of a vaccine.
He encouraged drug-markers to "accelerate the development" of a vaccine, which is at least 12 to 18 months away.
The President is expected to make a trip to the Centre for Disease Control in Georgia later this week.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, repeated previous assurances that the risk to Americans remains low.
"For people that have other (health) conditions that would militate toward a worse outcome, then we could have more sad news," Mr Pence said in an interview with CNN.
"But the American people should know the risk to the average American remains low."
The US has implemented sweeping new travel restrictions on people coming from Iran and parts of South Korea and Italy.
Mr Pence said that the deployment of 15,000 new testing kits had also been fast-tracked.
The coronavirus has become a political issue as the Democratic Party continues its race for a presidential candidate, with frontrunner Joe Biden criticising Mr Trump's handling of the crisis.
"The idea that Donald Trump said just several days ago this was a Democratic hoax, what in God's name is he talking about? What in God's name is he talking about? Has he no shame?" Mr Biden said in an appearance on CNN.
That attack was in reference to a remark made by Mr Trump at a rally in South Carolina last week, in which he appeared to call the outbreak risk a "hoax".
But the White House insisted the President was talking about Democratic candidates criticising him and not the disease itself.