© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
To contact us with news tips, story ideas or other related information, e-mail newsstaff@ideastream.org.

WATCH: Trump Declares National Emergency Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

President Trump speaks during a press briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force team on March 9. Trump is holding another press conference on the topic Friday afternoon. [Drew Angerer / Getty Images]
President Trump speaks during a press briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force team on March 9. Trump is holding another press conference on the topic Friday afternoon.

By Franco Ordoñez

President Trump declared a national emergency Friday afternoon amid growing concern about the coronavirus outbreak across the United States. The move, widely expected, frees up $50 billion for states to deal with the crisis.

Trump also asked every state to set up emergency operations centers.

The declaration had been requested by groups like the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, among others.

Trump said the declaration would give HHS broad authority to enable doctors and hospitals "maximum flexibility" to respond to the virus and care for patients.

He also said the federal government would work with the private sector to expand testing, but said people should only take the test if they have "certain symptoms." Trump said up to half a million tests would be available early next week, and said a list of locations would probably be announced on Sunday night. He said 5 million tests would be available by next month.

Trump said drive through test locations would be established in certain critical locations, with help from Google.

Trump declared "This will pass, this will pass through and we're going to be even stronger for it."

"This is proactive, leaning forward, trying to stay ahead of the curve" action, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, said his company would make space in its parking lots for the drive through clinics. The CEOs of Target, Walgreens and CVS also said their companies would be helping in the response. And, he said, the government would take advantage of the low oil prices and buy oil for the strategic petroleum reserve. "We're going to fill it right to the top," Trump said.

The president had declined to confirm earlier Thursday whether he would make the declaration, an action that would help  ease the distribution of federal funds to help state and local governments during national catastrophes. He didn't say which provisions he is using to declare the emergency, but it is likely the Stafford Act as well as the National Emergencies Act.

"We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act," Trump said Thursday in the Oval Office. "I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I'll do it."

The Stafford Act is a 1988 federal law that allows for assistance to states and localities during a disaster or emergency.

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the nation as fears are causing school closures and sports cancellations. Mass crowds are rushing to local stores to stockpile basic goods and finding some empty shelves.

Employing the Stafford Act would give the Federal Emergency Management Agency access to $40 billion in disaster relief funds to assist state and local governments responding to the virus.

The money during a pandemic can be used for emergency medical care, food and medicine.

The money would be in addition to the $8.3 billion provided by an  emergency spending bill Trump signed on March 6.

Trump  tweeted about the press conference as White House officials continued to  negotiate with lawmakers on a bill that could help mitigate the economic impact of the virus.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit  https://www.npr.org.