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Washington, March 14, 2020
United States President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak as a national emergency to unleash the full power of the federal government in the fight against the pandemic and open up access to up to $ 50 billion of money for states and territories to use in the fight against the disease.
"In furtherance of the order, I’m urging every state to set up emergency operation centers effective immediately. You’re going to be hearing from some of the largest companies and greatest retailers and medical companies in the world," he said at a press conference in the White House.
"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. The hospitals are very engaged. New York and various other places are also various engaged. I just spoke with Governor Cuomo; we had a very good conversation. And we’re working very strongly with many states, including New York," he said.
Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Coronavirus Task Force, said the emergency orders he was issuing on Friday would also confer broad new authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
"The Secretary of HHS will be able to immediately waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospital — all hospitals — and healthcare providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients," he said.
These include the ability to waive laws to enable telehealth; the power to waive certain federal license requirements so that doctors from other states can provide services in states with the greatest need; and the ability to waive requirements that critical-access hospitals limit the number of beds to 25 and the length of stay to 96 hours.
They also include the ability to waive the requirements of a three-day hospital stay prior to admission to a nursing home; the authority to waive rules that hinder hospitals’ ability to bring additional physicians on board or obtain needed office space; and the authority to waive rules that severely restrict where hospitals can care for patients within the hospital itself, ensuring that the emergency capacity can be quickly established.
"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," he said.
Trump recalled that he had met the CEOs of commercial labs ten days ago and directed them to immediately begin working on a solution to dramatically increase the availability of tests.
"As a result of that action, 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 a test very safely, quickly, and conveniently. But we don’t want people to take a test if — if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it. And we don’t want everyone running out and taking. Only if you have certain symptoms," he said.
He said that, using federal emergency authorities, the FDA approved a new test for the virus.
"We did this within hours after receiving the application from Roche — a process that would normally take weeks. 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," he said.
"The FDA’s goal is to hopefully authorize their application within 24 hours — it’ll go very quickly; it’s going very quickly — which will bring, additionally, 1.4 million tests on board next week and 5 million within a month. I doubt we’ll need anywhere near that," he said.
The President said the administration has been in discussions with pharmacies and retails to make drive-through tests available in the 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," he said.
"Again, we don’t want everybody taking this test; it’s totally unnecessary. And this will pass. This will pass through, and we’re going to be even stronger for it. We’ve learned a lot. A tremendous amount has been learned," he said.