Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially acknowledged for the first time that a “handful” of his staff has been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak during a briefing at the State Department Tuesday.
“We’ve had a couple of employees — you can count ’em on one hand — who have positive tests,” Pompeo said, without clarifying where the employees are stationed. “We’ve handled those exactly the way we’re asking every American to respond to those, wherever they find themselves in the world.”
Pompeo insisted that his department is moving forward with its operations despite reports of Americans abroad struggling to return home after governments imposed travel restrictions in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
While mentioning his department’s travel advisories, Pompeo said that “it’s not just about our officers serving in these distant places protecting themselves and our team,” but that it’s also about doing what’s right for Americans.
Repeatedly referring to the outbreak as “the Wuhan virus” — echoing President Trump calling it “the Chinese virus” earlier Tuesday in a tweet — Pompeo also took a whack at both Iran and China in light of the coronavirus’ spread.
The secretary of state claimed that Iranian leaders lied about the virus for weeks in an effort to “avoid responsibility” for their “gross incompetence.” Pompeo added that he believes that the Iranian regime is “an accomplice.”
Much like Trump’s remarks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House earlier Tuesday, Pompeo blasted Chinese leaders for their “disinformation campaign” that he believes is designed to shift responsibility.
“Now is not the time for recrimination, now is the time to solve this global pandemic and work to take down risks to Americans and people all across the world,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo’s latest remarks come the same day that the World Health Organization — which declared the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic last week — reported that the outbreak has affected almost 180,000 people worldwide and that 7,500 deaths have occurred globally thus far.
Watch Pompeo’s remarks below: