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Iran Press TV

White House told federal health agency to classify coronavirus deliberations: Report

Iran Press TV

Friday, 13 March 2020 12:42 AM

The White House has ordered meetings where federal health officials discussed the coronavirus to be classified, according to four Trump administration officials.

Speaking to Reuters, the officials said dozens of classified discussions about topics ranging from infections, quarantines and travel restrictions had been held in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) since mid-January.

The officials said the National Security Council (NSC) directed the meetings to be classified, with one official noting it "came directly from the White House."

"We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go," another official said. "These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary."

More than 1,300 US cases of coronavirus have been confirmed and 38 people have died so far in the country.

US health experts have criticized the Trump administration for downplaying the epidemic and lagging behind in testing efforts, making it difficult to gauge the full scale of outbreaks in the United States and curtail transmission of the virus.

While critics have hammered the Trump administration for a delayed response and a lack of transparency, an NSC spokesman defended the administration's transparency across federal agencies, noting meetings of the task force on the coronavirus all are unclassified, though it was unclear which meetings he was referring to.

"From day one of the response to the coronavirus, NSC has insisted on the principle of radical transparency," said the spokesman, John Ullyot. He added that the administration "has cut red tape and set the global standard in protecting the American people under President Trump's leadership."

Meanwhile, according to a projection shared with Congress, up to 150 million Americans could be infected with the coronavirus,

"Congress's attending physician told the Senate that he expects between 70 to 150 million people to eventually contract the coronavirus in the United States," Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said on Thursday.

Tlaib made the remarks during a hearing of the House of Representatives with members of the president's coronavirus task force, confirming earlier reports by US media outlets including Axios and NBC News.

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