– President Donald Trump on Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.

Trump’s announcement, at a White House news conference, followed mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response has been sluggish and came after two days of contradictory messages about the virus, which has infected more than 81,000 people globally, killing nearly 3,000.

“The risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said, flanked by top health officials from several government agencies. “We have the greatest experts, really in the world, right here,” he said.

He added: “We’re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.”

He also said he would accept whatever amount of money congressional Democrats wanted to give for the virus response.

Several top health care experts at the news conference echoed Trump’s optimism but also offered a much more sober assessment of the future risks to the health of Americans. Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned Americans there would be more infections.

“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases,” she said as Trump stood behind her. “The trajectory of what we’re looking at over the weeks and months ahead is very uncertain.”

About a half-hour later, Trump contradicted Schuchat’s assessment, telling reporters that “I don’t think it’s inevitable.” He left the door open to travel restrictions beyond China, to other hard-hit countries such as South Korea and Italy, and said his early decision to stop flights from China had held the virus at bay.

But the CDC confirmed minutes later that a new infection in California was contracted by a person who did not appear to have traveled to countries hard hit by the virus or been exposed to a known coronavirus patient. That raised the prospect that the virus was spreading through unknown means.

Earlier in the day, Trump had accused journalists of making the situation “look as bad as possible” even as government health experts warned that the coronavirus threat in the United States is only beginning. Without offering any details on transmission, Alex Azar, the health and human services secretary, confirmed the new case on Wednesday afternoon, bringing to 60 the total number of infections that have been counted in the United States. Azar said that health officials were still figuring out how the new person became infected.

The politics of coronavirus shifted drastically Tuesday when Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that “it’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.” She said that hospitals and schools should begin preparing for an outbreak, and that she had even spoken to her own family about “significant disruption of our lives.”

Trump sought Wednesday to counter that message with a much less dire one, holding up a Johns Hopkins University study that he said showed the United States as the most prepared country in the world to confront a virus. He said he was “amazed” that tens of thousands of people died from the flu each year, contrasting that number with the several dozen currently infected with coronavirus.

“We’re very, very ready for this, for anything, whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we’re, you know, we’re at that very low level,” Trump said.

Trump has been reluctant to give in to what he considers an “alarmist” view about the virus, an administration official said. The president has repeatedly said that, like the flu, the new coronavirus will dissipate with warmer, more humid weather, even though officials have warned him that relatively little is known about the virus, and it may not behave as others do.

The possibility of the virus spreading in the United States comes as the administration grapples with budget cuts and personnel moves that critics say have weakened the system for dealing with such health crises. The White House in 2018 eliminated a dedicated position on the National Security Council to coordinate pandemic response, the same year that the Trump administration narrowed its epidemiological work to 10 countries from 49.

In November, a task force at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which included five current and former Republican senators and House members, warned that “the United States remains woefully ill prepared to respond to global health security threats” and recommended the reinstatement of an NSC coordinator and a recommitment of funding and attention to global health programs.

Instead, the president’s budget request this month for the fiscal year that begins in October would cut the CDC’s budget by almost 16%, and the Health and Human Services Department’s by almost 10%. The proposal’s $3 billion in cuts to global health programs included a 53% cut to the World Health Organization and a 75% cut to the Pan American Health Organization.

Trump’s reassurances to the public appear at least in part aimed at calming global markets. On Tuesday, a day after its worst one-day slide in two years, the S&P 500 closed down 3%. The S&P 500 ended Wednesday down about 0.4%, bringing its losses for the week to more than 6%.

Moody’s Analytics predicted a 40% chance that the virus would grow into a global pandemic that would push the United States and the world into a recession. On Wednesday, Trump said he believed that “the stock market will recover. The economy is very strong.”