Donald Trump declares national emergency to fight coronavirus; plans to be tested
US President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to combat the outbreak of coronavirus that has infected more than 1,600 Americans and killed 41, and said he will “most likely” get himself tested, but not because of his meeting with a foreign official later found infected.
The emergency declaration will allow the administration access to $50 billion of disaster-relief funds to address the outbreak.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” Trump said at an outdoor news conference at the White House, flanked by all the senior member of his coronavirus task-force and business leaders.
The president also announced expanded testing for infection at drive-through facilities coming up on the premises of grocery chain Walmart and Target. Lack of adequate testing has emerged as a key weakness in the administration’s response to the outbreak, which, critics fear, may be far worse than known.
Coronavirus cases had been reported from 49 of the country’s 50 states and by the end of Friday 14 of them had closed their schools. All big large gatherings such as election rallies, entertainment parks and sporting events and annual concerts, festivals and conferences have been cancelled or postponed.
An increasing number of people are now working from home, government and private. College students have been forced to return to their permanent addresses — to parents — as universities have shut down campuses and in-person teaching. And families are stocking up on supplies wracked by uncertainties.
President Trump has faced growing criticism of his handling o the crisis and for underplaying the crisis, in concert with conservative TV anchors; and for blaming his missteps and shortcomings on President Barack Obama.
Asked if he took responsibility for the inadequate testing, something that has been acknowledged as “a failing” by one of the key members of the coronavirus task-force, the president said, not conscious perhaps of the full import of his words, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
The president has also seemed unwilling to lead the offensive against the virus by example. He shook hands with members of his team at the new conference, as was widely noted and commented upon on social media; patted some on of them on the back and repeatedly touched the microphone used by multiple other speaker. With the exception of an elbow bump.
The American president did relent a little on the question of his own susceptibility to the virus because of an extended interaction with a visiting Brazilian official at Trump’s Florida home and report, Mar-a-Lago. The foreign dignitary has since tested positive for coronavirus.
He had, until Friday, insisted he did not need to be tested. But he relented under persistent questioning by reporters. “Most likely, yeah. Most likely,” he said but sought to distance it from the dinner meeting at which the Brazilian official was present, seated close enough to pass on the virus to president.
Trump was exposed to a second visitor at the Mar-a-Lago resort who later tested positive for coronavirus.
The president’s eldest daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump has also faced questions about exposure to the virus after a meeting with a visiting Australian official who later tested positive. The foreign dignitary had also met Attorney General William Barr. There was no word if either of them had been tested.