Trump declares a national emergency over the coronavirus after weeks of downplaying the threat of the pandemic

Associated PressPresident Donald Trump.
  • President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus on Friday. Trump said the move will open up access to $US50 billion in money for US states and territories.
  • The president said “no resource will be spared,” but later said, “We don’t want everybody taking this test, it’s totally unnecessary.
  • “This will pass,” he added. “This will pass through and we’ll emerge even stronger for it.”
  • According to The New York Times, as of Friday morning at least 1,663 people in 46 states and Washington, DC, had tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 41 people had died.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the novel coronavirus on Friday afternoon during a White House news conference.

The move will trigger the Stafford Act, which allows for more federal aid to states and municipalities. Trump said his decision will open up access to $US50 billion in aid money for US states and territories.

Trump also conferred “broad new authority” on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, which includes:

  • The ability to waive laws to enable telehealth.
  • The ability to waive requirements that critical access hospitals limit the number of beds to 25 and length of stay to 96 hours.
  • Waiving the requirement for a 3-day hospital stay before being admitted to a nursing home.
  • The ability to bring more physicians on board or obtain needed office space.
  • The authority to waive rules that severely restrict hospitals from being able to adequately care for patients.

“No resource will be spared,” Trump said. “Nothing whatsoever.”

“Our immediate goal is to stop the spread of the virus and to help all Americans who have been impacted by this,” he said.

But he added: “Again, we don’t want everybody taking this test, it’s totally unnecessary. This will pass. This will pass through and we’ll emerge even stronger for it. We’ve learned a lot. A tremendous amount has been learned.”

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday classified the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. To date, more than 136,000 people around the world have been infected, and there have been more than 5,000 deaths.

According to The New York Times, as of Friday morning at least 1,663 people in 46 states and Washington, DC, had tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 41 people had died.

Trump said on Friday that the federal government is working with the private sector to help facilitate testing for the coronavirus. The president said 1,700 Google employees are working on a website to work toward that goal.

Elizabeth Goitein, the director of the Brennan Centre for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program, told Voice of America this week that declaring a national emergency would allow Trump to tap into a vast reservoir of additional powers outlined in more than 100 statutes.

“When a president declares an emergency declaration, he at that moment has access to all of the laws that say in a national emergency the president can do X, whether or not those powers relate to the emergency at hand,” Goitein told the outlet.

Some of those allow for a “reasonable and very measured” response to an emergency, Goitein added. Meanwhile, a national-emergency declaration also significantly expands the president’s ability to take extreme action in the name of national security.

More than half of US states have declared states of emergency to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The president has so far downplayed the risk of the pandemic and repeatedly claimed that the public does not need to be concerned, even as public health officials have warned of a severe disruption to everyday life as more positive cases emerge.

Citing three people familiar with the matter, Politico reported on Wednesday that Trump was initially hesitant to declare a national emergency but leaning toward a more limited response in line with his preference to downplay the crisis and stabilise financial markets, which his advisers have said is their biggest priority as they craft a response.

US stocks climbed on Friday, bouncing back a day after the worst single-day drop since 1987.

The gains came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that Congress and the Trump administration were nearing an economic stimulus deal. In a tweet on Friday morning, Trump hinted at what the package may include.

All three major US indexes remained in bear-market territory on Friday as coronavirus fears and the oil-price war weighed on investor sentiment.

Ben Winck contributed reporting.

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