On Friday, President Donald Trump finally declared a national emergency to “unleash the full power of the federal government” in response to the new coronavirus. The declaration will trigger certain executive authorities and free up resources that might otherwise be unavailable.
The announcement came on Friday afternoon during a press conference held in the Rose Garden of the White House where President Trump was surrounded by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence.
Trump declares a national emergency
After first reviewing some of the action his administration has already taken, such as travel restrictions on China and now most of Europe, the president also noted the ongoing effort to sidestep certain laws and regulations that, while necessary and appropriate during normal times, are hindering the effectiveness of the government’s efforts in dealing with the crisis.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words,” President Trump said. “The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of very importantly — very important and a large amount of money for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease.”
Emergency powers granted to HHS secretary
In accordance with the declaration of a national emergency, President Trump urged every state to go ahead and open their respective emergency operation centers immediately, and similarly urged every hospital in the nation to activate their own emergency preparedness plans.
The order also grants “broad new authority” for the time being to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, specifically the authority to waive regulations that hamper the ability of doctors and hospitals to efficiently identify, manage, and treat infected individuals.
Some of the laws and regulations had to do with licensing for doctors and hospitals and limits on where and for how long hospitals could treat patients, among other things.
“We’ll remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need and that they’re entitled to. No resource will be spared. Nothing whatsoever,” Trump said.
More tests on the way
During the press conference, President Trump also revealed that his administration is partnering with several major private sector players in the retail and pharmaceutical industries to provide sufficient numbers of coronavirus tests. “We therefore expect up to a half a million additional tests will be available early next week. We’ll be announcing locations probably on Sunday night,” Trump said, adding that he expects 5 million tests will be available within a month.
Trump also announced plans for pharmacies and retailers to establish drive-through testing areas in their parking lots. “The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car,” the president explained.
On top of all of that, the president also announced a number of other actions to address the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, such as temporarily waiving the interest on student loans and purchasing enough oil to fill the nation’s strategic reserves and stabilize the markets, among other things.
“The spirit and the will of our nation is unbreakable. We will defeat this threat. When America is tested, America rises to the occasion,” President Trump said. “And to those families and citizens who are worried and concerned for themselves and their loved ones, I want you to know that your federal government will unleash every authority, resource, and tool at its disposal to safeguard the lives and health of our people.”