Update (1535ET): President Trump has just proved that he doesn’t need the Democrats and is taking charge by declaring a national emergency giving him access to $40 billion in funding, plus much more capacity to act.
Instead of partnering with the Democrats, who have erected hurdles for from the beginning by turning the debate over virus relief into a political hot potato, Trump and the federal government will partner with the private sector to provide millions of tests, cover the cost of care for millions of Americans, and facilitate the government’s containment effort – all without the involvement of Congress.
The declaration will allow FEMA to tap into some $40 billion in funding and mobilize personnel more quickly, while helping state and local leaders respond.
Trump also announced additional efforts to address the virus, including urging states to set up emergency operation centers and hospitals, as well as active-preparedness plans. He unveiled partnerships with private companies to increase testing capabilities and treatment. He even said the administration was working to set up drive-thru test sites (like this one set up by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.). Gov. Cuomo said earlier that NY had set up its first such clinic, and experts claim that ‘drive thru’ clinics are an option to greatly speed up testing and examinations.
“I am officially declaring a national emergency – two very big words,” Trump said in remarks in the Rose Garden, adding that the move would release up to $50 billion dollars in federal aid.
He also listed off a list of steps the government is taking to combat the virus and provide testing and care.
After he finished, Trump brought out Dr Deborah Birx, who, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, calmly explained to the public the reasons for the delay, outlined the immense effort that has been undertaken behind the scenes for the federal government to ‘catch up’ and essentially repudiated reports claiming to offer proof that the administration had botched the effort.
Then Dr. Fauci came on, and explained how the governments efforts would clear up the red tape to allow state and local authorities to take charge.
“People at the state and local level…will have as many constraints as possible removed so they can do everything they can and we can do many of the things we’ve talked about…that curve that goes up….we don’t want to have that curve…we want to suppress it down to a small mound,” he said.
“We still have a long way to go, we still have a lot of cases, but this will help it to end.”
Trump returned to the podum after Dr. Fauci, and announced a few additional measures including waiving interest payments on student loans, since “many of those schools have closed.” He also announced relief for the energy industry in the form of then in the middle of a riff about oil, Trump seemed to realize he was going off track, and abruptly asked VP Mike Pence to say a few words and lay out the actions of the task force.
Pence reiterated that the Trump travel ban would take effect at midnight tonight and returning citizens would be screened if they had traveled to any of the hot zones.
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President Trump is set to hold a news conference at 3pmET to discuss the coronavirus as cases and deaths soar in the US.
The virus has killed at least 40 Americans and there are more than 1,700 cases nationwide as of Friday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
And set to get worse…
Bloomberg News reported he plans to declare a national emergency, a move that had been under consideration for some time.
As The Hill reports, declaring a national emergency would allow wider use of federal funds by state and local authorities, some of which have been overwhelmed by the fast-moving coronavirus.
The press conference will come as House lawmakers are likely to vote on sweeping legislation to provide financial help to victims.
We suspect Trump will also take this opportunity to blast the Obama administration (he spent part of Friday morning lashing out at them over its response to the swine flu), The Fed (for failing to take stronger action on the economy), and the current Democrats (he tweeted this morning that because we have had a very strong border policy, we have had 40 deaths related to CoronaVirus. If we had weak or open borders, that number would be many times higher!).
Watch Live (due to start at 3pmET):