Trump cancels plan to sign coronavirus bill at CDC in Atlanta

U.S. President Donald Trump waves to reporters as he departs for travel to Scranton, Pennsylvania from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2020.

Carlos Barria | REUTERS

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is no longer planning to travel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, an administration official said Friday.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the government’s response to coronavirus, had said Thursday that Trump was planning to sign an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill at the CDC.

“The president is no longer traveling to Atlanta today,” said an administration official, who declined to be identified. “The CDC has been proactive and prepared since the very beginning and the president does not want to interfere with the CDC’s mission to protect the health and welfare of their people and the agency.”

A representative for the CDC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump signed the bill at the White House on Friday morning before he left for Nashville, Tennessee. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he would go to the CDC in the president’s stead.

However, Trump said he could still end up visiting the CDC. He said there was a person suspected to have coronavirus at CDC on Thursday, but the test had come back negative. “I may be going. We’re going to see if they can turn it around,” Trump told reporters after he signed the bill.

The Senate passed the funding bill Thursday a day after it sailed through the House. The spending package is aimed at helping local and federal authorities battle the coronavirus outbreak as numbers of confirmed cases mount. Congress scrambled to put it together over the past week, after a dispute over vaccine pricing held things up.

The final package far exceeds the $2.5 billion proposal that the White House put forward last week. Trump has since said he would be willing to sign orders for a larger package, and it has been widely expected he would approve the funds with little pushback. 

This bill includes more than $3 billion in vaccine research and $2.2 billion in prevention and preparedness efforts. It also helps reimburse states like Washington that have already been burning through resources to fight the outbreak.

Trump in February put Pence in charge of the federal response to coronavirus, after criticism from lawmakers that the administration’s initial response was slow and disorganized. 

According to the White House’s official schedule, Trump will travel to Nashville on Friday to survey the damage and the response to deadly tornadoes earlier this week. He will then head to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, to speak at a fundraiser.