Trump Declares State of Emergency in U.S. to Combat Coronavirus

Date: 2020-03-13 19:46:41

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President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday over the coronavirus outbreak, opening the door to more federal aid for states and municipalities. #Coronavirus #Covid19 #Pandemic #NationalEmergency

The declaration allows the government to marshal additional resources to combat the virus. It also marks a symbolic turning point for the president, who has repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and insisted that his administration had the outbreak under control.

The outbreak “could get worse,” Trump said at a press conference in the Rose Garden. “The next eight weeks are critical.”

As Trump’s press conference continued, U.S. stocks extended gains. The S&P 500 climbed more than 9%, providing some respite after stocks’ worst day since 1987 earlier this week.

Trump also said he was waiving interest payments on all student loans held by federal government agencies until further notice, and he instructed Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to buy “large quantities of crude oil” for the U.S. strategic reserves.

“The price of oil went down quite a bit, so we’re going to fill it up,” Trump said.

Trump said he was also conferring new authority to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, enabling him to waive regulations and parts of laws — such as hospital stay limits — to give hospitals and health care providers maximum flexibility.

The president also addressed widespread criticism that the government has fumbled the distribution of test kits, announcing what he called a new partnership with the private sector to test for coronavirus.

“We want to make sure those who need a test can get a test,” Trump said. He estimated 5 million tests would be available within a month, but said he doubted so many would be needed. He encouraged people who weren’t showing symptoms to refrain from seeking a test.

On the government’s failure to provide sufficient test kits across the country, Trump said: “I don’t take responsibility at all,” adding that his administration has had to redesign the public health system around the circumstances of the outbreak.

Trump criticized Democrats, saying “we just don’t think they’re giving enough” on a bill proposed by the House this week to help address the crisis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking about an hour before the Trump’s address, said the Democrats would vote on their bill Friday. She said it was focused on facilitating free coronavirus testing, including for the uninsured, adding that it would secure two weeks of paid sick leave for people affected by the virus and fund food programs for the poor, Pelosi said.

Part of the partnership Trump announced was done in collaboration with Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which will help direct potentially infected people to drive-through test sites at locations including Walmart and Target parking lots.

Senate Democrats had urged Trump to invoke the Stafford Act and other disaster declaration requests they say would free up more than $42 billion in funding for states available in the Disaster Relief Fund.

Trump said his declaration would open access to as much as $50 billion.

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