HHS Secretary Azar criticizes politicization of novel coronavirus: 'It's unnecessary'

The Department of Health and Human Services secretary said on ABC's "This Week" that President Donald was referring to the "partisan sniping" when the president referred to the novel coronavirus as a Democrats' "new hoax" at a Friday rally.

"It's unnecessary, we don't need to have this made a political issue," Secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday. "We're in a public health crisis here -- we all need to be working together."

Azar also emphasized to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the risk to most Americans was low. Currently, there are at least 69 cases in the U.S., 22 of which were originally detected in the country.

MORE: President confirms 1st known death in US from coronavirus

confirmed the first U.S. death linked to the coronavirus in Washington state on Saturday. The victim was identified by the Centers for Disease Control as a man in his 50s.

"The risk to any average American is low from the novel coronavirus," Azar said Saturday. "The risk remains low thanks to the unprecedented actions President has taken and the actions he's announcing today, that risk remains low."

PHOTO: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a press conference at the Department of Health and Human Services on the coordinated public health response to the 2019 coronavirus, Feb. 7, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTO: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a press conference at the Department of Health and Human Services on the coordinated public health response to the 2019 coronavirus, Feb. 7, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

PHOTO: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a press conference at the Department of Health and Human Services on the coordinated public health response to the 2019 coronavirus, Feb. 7, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

In the U.S., cases of community spread have increased, with at least five cases suspected. Officials in Washington state were investigating cases at a long-term care facility, unrelated to the person who died, and Illinois announced its second case of novel coronavirus late Saturday.

Globally, in at least 60 countries, there have been over 87,000 cases of COVID-19 and almost 3,000 people have died.

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MORE: Some election officials scrambling to address coronavirus concerns ahead of Super Tuesday

Vice President Mike Pence also announced on Saturday that the U.S. would be adding additional travel restrictions on Iran, which has had 978 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 54 deaths. The restrictions would prohibit any foreign national who as visited Iran in the last 14 days from entering the U.S.

Earlier this month, Azar announced restrictions on travel from China related to the virus. Those restrictions deny entry to any foreign national who was not the immediate family member of a U.S. citizen and had traveled to China in the previous 14 days.

Story continues

Pence, who is leading the government's coronavirus response, also announced that the State Department would issue the highest level travel advisory for regions of and South Korea that have outbreaks of the virus.

This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

HHS Secretary Azar criticizes politicization of novel coronavirus: 'It's unnecessary' originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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