Government coronavirus response: Trump declares national emergency, test ‘likely’


MARCH 13, 2020

President Donald Trump holds a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose garden at the White House, March 13, 2020 in Washington. – Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump announced Friday he’s declaring a national emergency to deal with the coronavirus crisis as cases increase alarmingly and criticism mounts over how he’s responding to the situation.

He also said he “most likely” will get tested himself, although he said he had no symptoms. “I think I will be,” he said. “Fairly soon, we’re working on that, we’re working out a schedule,” he responded to a reporter’s question, saying not because of any exposure he might have had, “but because I think I will do it anyway.” He had been photographed last weekend standing next to a Brazilian official who tested positive.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said, “To unleash the full power of the federal government, I am officially declaring a national emergency.” Referring to that as “two very big words,” he said it would allow him to quickly get $50 billion to states, territories and localities “in our shared fight against this disease.”

With Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and other members of his coronavirus task force members standing behind him, Trump said, “No resource will be spared — nothing whatsoever.”

The news conference was also an effort to deal with the political fallout two days after a speech to the nation Wednesday night that was seen as largely ineffective, leaving many confused and Wall street rattled.

“Declaring a national emergency does two things: it coveys to the public that the nation faces a serious crisis and that drastic action is necessary and it will immediately make available resources and other support that can be directed to protect communities across the nation,” former Acting Homeland Security Undersecretary John Cohen, now an ABC News contributor, said.

“This is an important step that based on current conditions should surprise no one — the only surprise is that it wasn’t done sooner,” Cohen said.

Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 13, 2020. – Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

“I’m also asking every hospital in this country to activate its emergency preparedness plan, so that they can meet the needs of Americans everywhere,” Trump said in his remarks.

“Emergency orders I’m issuing today will also confer broad new authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary of HHS will be able to immediately wave revisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospital — all hospitals — and health care providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients,” the president continued.

“This includes the following critical authorities: the ability to waive laws to enable tele-health, a fairly new, and incredible thing,” he said.”It gives remote doctor’s visits and hospital check ins. The power to waive certain federal license requirements so the doctors from other states can provide services in states with the greatest need.”

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 13, 2020 in Washington. – Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“They can do what they have to do. They know what they have to do. Now they don’t have any problem getting it done,” Trump said. “Today we’re announcing a new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus. We want to make sure that those who need a test can get it as very safely quickly.”

He added, “We’ve been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available in critical locations identified by public health professionals. The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car.”

“Again, we don’t want everyone taking this test. It’s totally unnecessary,” the president said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 13, 2020, in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump then invited Fauci, the widely-respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to speak. He called Trump’s actions an example of what he called a “forward-leaning” approach to the crisis. “We still have a long way to go. There will be many more cases,” he warned. “But what’s going on here today is going to help it to end sooner than it would have.”

“Not only are we bringing a whole of government approach to confronting the coronavirus, we’re bringing an all-of-America approach,” Pence said, speaking after Fauci.

(Pictured) President Donald Trump announced a National Emergency during the news conference about the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 13, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s especially important now that we look after senior citizens with chronic underlying health conditions,” he said, reminding that they “helped us with our homework” and “tucked us in at night.” He later added, “And now it’s time for us to be there for them.”

“Some of the doctors say it (the virus) will wash through, it will flow through. Interesting terms — and very accurate,” Trump said in answering a question.”I think you’re going to find in a number of weeks it’s going to be a very accurate term. In times of hardship, the true character of America always shines through.” .

His response about getting tested himself came after a reporter asked, “Are you being selfish by not getting tested and potentially –” but he cut her off saying, “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a point of delivering her own statement about an hour before the president was scheduled to speak. She said House Democrats would pass a package of measures “today” to address what she called a “long overdue response” to the crisis, saying the three most important parts deal would deal with “testing, testing, testing.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes a statement about a coronavirus aid package on Capitol Hill, in Washington, March 13, 2020. – J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Pelosi said the bill would ensure that free tests would be available for “everyone who needs a test,” saying a coordinated, nationwide approach was needed to “understand the scale and scope” of the problem so that there could be a “science-based response.”

The measure would also include paid sick and emergency leave, she said, as well as enhanced unemployment benefits to help families deal with the economic consequences.

The fast-moving developments came after the Trump administration moved Friday morning to appoint a point person for testing and announced expanded measures in what appears to be an acknowledgement of the lack of available testing and delays in processing the results.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has designated Adm. Brett Giroir to coordinate U.S. testing efforts as the cases of infected Americans grow exponentially. Under the HHS umbrella, the Food and Drug Administration is introducing an emergency hotline for private laboratories and providing new funding for partnerships with companies developing rapid tests that can detect the virus within an hour.

The announcement of the boost in testing comes as capacity has struggled to catch up with the demand nationally at public health labs. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the widely-respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the current system “a failing” on Capitol Hill Thursday even as Trump told reporters it’s been “going very smooth.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a House Oversight Committee hearing on preparedness for and response to the coronavirus outbreak on Capitol Hill, March 11, 2020. – Patrick Semansky/AP

The House is expected to vote on a stimulus plan Friday to offset the economic fallout to everyday Americans from the outbreak, pending a deal between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — the administration’s point person on negotiations.

Here are Friday’s most significant developments in Washington:

  • President Trump declares national emergency
  • Trump administration announces steps to speed up testing
  • Pelosi says House Democrats will pass a economic relief measure ‘today’ that ensures free tests for everyone who needs one

Here is how developments in Washington are unfolding

Trump declares a national emergency

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday which he said “will open up access to up to $50 billion” to fight the novel coronavirus.

Trump also announced private sector partnerships to “accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus.”

Fauci: ‘We have not peaked yet’

Following two days of testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Fauci repeated a warning to ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday that he has made as the coronavirus continues to spread: “It gets worse before it gets better.”

“It will be at least a matter of several weeks. It’s unpredictable, but if you look at historically how these things work, it will likely be anywhere from a few weeks to up to eight weeks,” Fauci said. “I hope it’s going to be in the earlier part, two, three, four weeks, but it’s impossible to make an accurate prediction.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, walks to a TV interview at the White House, March, 12, 2020. – Doug Mills/NY Times via Redux

Pelosi: Agreement is ‘near’ with White House on aid package

Earlier, Pelosi said that she and the Trump administration were close to agreement on a coronavirus aid package to reassure anxious Americans by providing sick pay, free testing and other resources, hoping to calm teetering financial markets amid the mounting crisis.

“We have — are near — to an agreement,” Pelosi said, emerging from her office at the Capitol late Thursday night.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to the media during her weekly briefing, March 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. – Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Mnuchin tells worried investors ‘don’t stare at the screen’

When asked Friday what his message is for Americans — especially those close to retirement — who are worried as they look at their 401Ks this morning, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sought to project calm amid the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus.

“Don’t stare at the screen, okay,” Mnuchin said, in offering advice. “It will be higher or a year from now, as I said, people who weathered the crash in 1987, people who weathered the financial crisis. For long term investors, the US is the best place to invest in the world.” 

Mnuchin repeatedly noted that what the U.S. is facing today is “not the financial crisis,” describing it as a temporary situation, but said the White House is looking at taking major stimulus actions to help Americans through this time.

“I can assure you, the president is determined, we will do whatever we need. I think the president is looking at a major stimulus package, whether it’s through the payroll tax cut or through another means of delivering liquidity to hard working Americans,” said Mnuchin.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with reporters outside White House in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2020. – Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

As the administration nears a deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a COVID-19 aid package, Mnuchin described it as just the “second inning” in a baseball game.

“I think we view this as this is the second inning in a baseball game. The first inning was the $8 billion bill, this is the second inning,” said, Mnuchin, who said the plan to “come quickly back” to Congress on issues facing the airline industry.

His comments illustrate a major shift tone from the administration from just a week ago, when the president’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the administration at that time was not considering any sweeping stimulus measures.

Australian official tests positive for COVID-19 after meeting with AG Barr and Ivanka Trump

Australia’s minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, said Friday he’s contracted coronavirus, one week after he was seen meeting with Attorney General Bill Bar and President Trump’s daughter in Washington, D.C.

Department of Justice spokeswoman told ABC News that while Barr is “staying home” Friday, “the AG is feeling great and not showing any symptoms,” adding that the “CDC is not recommending he be tested at this point.”

Attorney General William Barr arrives before President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Freedom to former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Jack Keane in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 10, 2020. – Patrick Semansky/AP

The news comes one day after Trump said he is “not concerned” that an aide to the Brazilian president tested positive for COVID-19 days after he attended dinner with Trump at his Florida resort.

Courtesy/Source: ABC News