President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday afternoon to bolster funding for fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump says the emergency will open up nearly $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak. Additionally, the president said they would be waiving interest on federally owned student loans in effort to ease financial impact of the virus outbreak.
He added that he has also instructed his Secretary of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which stores fuel for emergency use.
Trump held a press conference in the White House Rose Garden to address the spiraling coronavirus pandemic as he seeks to calm a panicked nation amid mixed messages and growing criticism of his administration's scattershot response.
He said he is also asking every hospital in the U.S. to activate their emergency preparedness plan.
The president has faced growing criticism about his mixed messages on the severity of the outbreak and over the administration's scattershot response.
But the president is defending the administration’s response, particularly its temporary ban on travel from Europe, saying it will save lives. He says of the virus that “this will pass” and the nation will emerge stronger.
In addition to declaring a national emergency, Trump announced a public-private partnership to increase national coronavirus testing capabilities.
The president also noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave emergency approval for a coronavirus test created by Swiss diagnostics maker Roche. Trump said there will be 500,000 additional tests because of that available early next week.
While the president heralded the upcoming increase in available tests, he stressed that they don't want people to take a test if they feel they shouldn't be doing it.
Trump also said that Google is working to develop a website to help people determine whether a coronavirus test is needed.
The national emergency declaration comes as the virus edged ever closer to the world’s power centers, including a positive test for a Brazilian official who spent time with Trump and top administration officials last weekend and an Australian Cabinet minister who met with U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s daughter Ivanka among other top aides.
When pressed by a reporter over why he hasn't been tested or started self-quarantining, the the president said he will "most likely" be tested "fairly soon," but says he has no symptoms.
"“This will pass, this will pass through and we’re going to be even stronger for it,” Trump said Friday afternoon.
Negotiations continue between the White House and Congress on an aid package, but there was no announcement of a breakthrough, as House Democrats prepare to vote on their own measure Friday.
Several cities and almost 30 states have already declared states of emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
There have been more than 1,200 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and at least 40 deaths, but there has also been criticism regarding a lack of available testing.
WHO officials said March 9 that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
And to put the coronavirus numbers in context, millions of Americans get the flu every single year and there are thousands of flu deaths annually. Since October 2019, the CDC estimates around 32 million Americans have gotten the flu. That’s one in every 10 Americans.