President Donald Trump announced today in a nationally televised news conference that he is declaring a national emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government through this effort today, I am officially declaring a national emergency,” Trump said in his opening remarks.
Trump said this action will open up access up to $50 billion for state and local governments, and urges every state to set up emergency operation centers.
According to USA Today, There have been over 1,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday there have been 41 deaths.
What this means: The decision will help free up billions of dollars from the federal government to aid the fight against the COVID-19 disease, which has taken the lives of over 40 Americans. The relief funding will help states and local communities curb the spread of the virus.
Thus far, the federal government has faced increasing scrutiny over the lack of coronavirus testing being done. COVID-19 tests have been approved for usage and should be available for use starting Sunday.
Trump said he is changing future regulations and said if this happens again — the number of available tests will increase.
“We understand how important the testing is,” he said.
These tests are intended to become available through healthcare providers and via pharmacy drive-throughs as well.
More from Trump: Trump noted that the virus can have the same impact, regardless of geographical location.
“When America is tested, America rises to the occasion,” he said. “Americans are the strongest and most resilient people on Earth. In the coming weeks, we will all have to make changes and sacrifices. But these short-term sacrifices will produce long-term gain.”
Trump also announced that he is waiving interest on federal student loan payments during the coronavirus emergency.
“Your federal government will unleash every tool at its disposal to safeguard our people,” he said.
Trump claimed the private sector will provide 5 million coronavirus tests within a month. He said he “doesn’t take responsibility” for lag in testing and did not answer when he can guarantee every American who needs a test can get one, per a reporter’s question.
Trump says he will “most likely” be tested for coronavirus after he was with Brazilian official who tested positive earlier this week.
Others who spoke today: Vice President Mike Pence mentioned the travel ban from 26 European countries starting tonight at midnight. He said the administration has been in continuous contact with states and governors from all over the country, and that 46 states have reported cases of coronavirus.
“Together we’ll get through this — together we’ll put the health of Americans first.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, announced a new approach to testing, which involves filling out a screening questionnaire online. This would allow citizens to share their symptoms to get proper testing and treatment.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Trump’s declaration of a national emergency is intended to free up resources to stop the spread of the virus sooner than it otherwise would have.
From the private sector: Brian Cornell, chief executive officer of Target, said the company is keeping stores open and stocked with essentials. He said they are also creating a safe environment for employees. He said their goal is to help all Americans and prevent the spread of the virus.
Doug McMillon, chief executive office of Walmart, said that the corporation has been asked to make portions of their parking lots available at select locations, increasing in scale over time to allow for a drive-through model.
He said they will stay involved and do everything they can from a supply-chain point of view to be of assistance.
Richard Ashworth, president of Walgreens, said the company plans to partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Trump Administration and the White House coronavirus task force going forward.
“A lot of times when we have natural disasters, our stores are a beacon in the community — and this situation is no different,” Ashworth said.
Tom Polen, chief executive officer of Becton, Dickinson and Company, said they are ramping up manufacturing capacity to ensure that the right collection devices and testing equipment are ready to address the virus.
Steve Rusckowski, president and chief executive officer of Quest Diagnostics, said the clinical laboratory has been working with the Federal Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have tests available in their labs.
“We now have the capabilities from Roche Diagnostics that we will bring into our facilities this weekend,” Rusckowski said.
Matthew Sause, chief executive officer of Roche Diagnostics in North America, said he thanked the Federal Drug Administration for the quick approval of a coronavirus test.
“It’s critical for us to make that available — to help patients in need — working with laboratories to get it up and going in the near future, which will bring hundreds and thousands of tests available to patients in need in the United States,” Sause said.
David Pierre, chief operating officer of Signify Health, said through their logistics and network abilities, they are ready to help and provide clinicians wherever needed.