President Trump declares virus pandemic a national emergency

President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency declaration Friday afternoon over the coronavirus outbreak following a week of cancellations, suspensions and growing case numbers that unsettled Americans nationwide.

Posted: Mar 13, 2020 12:40 PM
Updated: Mar 13, 2020 9:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is declaring the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, as Washington struggles with providing Americans with relief and officials race to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency.” He said it would free up to $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

Trump said he was also giving Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar emergency authorities to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

He also announced a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities, as his administration has come under fire for being too slow in making the test available. The partnership will include drive-thru testing in some locations and an online portal to screen those seeking to get tested.

Still, Trump said that officials don’t want people taking the test unless they have certain symptoms. “It’s totally unnecessary,” Trump said. He added, “This will pass.”

Trump spoke as negotiations continue between the White House and Congress on an aid package, but there was no announcement of a breakthrough, as House Democrats prepare to vote on their own measure Friday.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday the House would approve its coronavirus aid package, imploring the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to “put families first” by backing the effort to provide Americans with relief.

The House Democratic leader spoke from the speaker’s balcony at the Capitol ahead of Trump’s news conference at the White House, as the power centers of Washington were shuttered to visitors.

“Our nation, our great nation has faced crisis before,” Pelosi said. “And every time, thanks to the courage and optimism of the American people, we have prevailed. Now, working together, we will once again prevail.”

Trump has not yet publicly backed the package, making its outcome uncertain in Congress.

Central to the package is free testing for the virus and guaranteed sick pay for workers who are taking time away from jobs, along with an infusion of dollars to handle unemployment benefits and boost food programs for children, families and seniors.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whom Trump tapped to negotiate for the administration, have engaged in around-the-clock negotiations.

But Republican leaders in Congress slowed the deal, wanting assurances that Trump would publicly support the agreement before signing off on it ahead of any vote, according to a top congressional aide unauthorized to discuss the private talks and speaking on condition of anonymity.

GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, huddled with Mnuchin and Trump at the White House earlier Friday.

“We can only defeat this outbreak if we have an accurate determination of its scale and scope, so that we can pursue the precise science-based response that is necessary to put families first,” Pelosi said.

The White House is under enormous pressure, dealing with the crisis on multiple fronts as it encroached ever closer on the president.

The virus has swept in alarming ways across American life, sending the financial markets into a dangerous slide and shuttering schools and sporting events and limiting everyday interactions in communities across the country.

The administration’s federal task force managing the crisis was working furiously to break a bottleneck in the nation’s ability to test for the new virus, and weighing what sort of emergency powers Trump would need to invoke to provide needed aid to overwhelmed state and local governments.

And a personal health scare intensified as White House officials worked to determine the level of exposure by the president and senior aides to several foreign officials who have since tested positive for the virus.

In one welcome announcement, the administration said Friday it was awarding $1.3 million to two companies trying to develop rapid COVID-19 tests that could detect within an hour whether a person is positive for the new coronavirus.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to be over it.

Earlier Friday, Mnuchin sounded an optimistic note. “I think we’re very close to getting this done,” he said in an appearance on CNBC.

On the COVID-19 illness, Mnuchin cautioned that “people should understand the numbers are going to go up before they go down.”

Pelosi and Mnuchin continued their constant cross-town phone calls throughout a tense morning of negotiations to firm up and salvage the emerging deal that has widespread support from Democrats and some in the business community seeking certainty.

Providing sick pay for workers is a crucial element of federal efforts to stop the rapid spread of the infection. Officials warn that the nation’s healthcare system could quickly become overwhelmed with gravely sick patients, as suddenly happened in Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus.

The ability to ensure paychecks will keep flowing — for people who stay home as a preventative measure or because they’re feeling ill or caring for others — can help assure Americans they will not fall into financial hardship.

“We’re in an emergency, and we’re trying to respond as fast as we can,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., as lawmakers filed in and out of Pelosi’s office on Friday.

The potential deal between Congress and the White House would cap a tumultuous week in which Washington strained for a comprehensive response to an outbreak that is testing the nation’s political, financial and health care systems.

Trump has struggled to show he’s on top of the crisis, after giving conflicting descriptions of what the U.S. is doing to combat the virus.

The House aid package builds on an emergency $8.3 billion measure approved last week.

Pelosi promised a third coronavirus package will follow soon, though the House is leaving Washington on Friday for a previously scheduled recess. That measure will include more aggressive steps to boost the U.S. economy, which economists fear has already slipped into recession.

But there’s little appetite within either party for Trump’s proposal to suspend collection of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. States are already clamoring for fiscal relief from Washington as the virus threatens their budgets.

The coronavirus crisis also got personal for Trump and some members of Congress.

The president, his daughter Ivanka, Attorney General WIlliam Barr and lawmakers are among those who have been in contact with others who have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, now in isolation at a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, had returned to Sydney from Washington, where he met Barr and Ivanka Trump last week.

White House officials have not responded to questions about whether the administration officials intend to be tested or self-quarantine.

Barr, meanwhile, was staying home Friday, though he “felt great and wasn’t showing any symptoms,” according to his spokeswoman Kerri Kupec. She said the CDC did not recommend testing at this point.

In addition, just days after meeting Trump and Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the communications chief for Brazil’s president, Fábio Wajngarten, tested positive for coronavirus. Scott said he was isolating himself. Trump, 73, said he was not concerned.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was also at Trump’s club on the weekend, joined a growing list of lawmakers who have chosen to isolate themselves as a precaution. He announced Friday that he also met with the Australian official who has now tested positive. And GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who had previously isolated himself after a potential exposure at a conservative conference in Washington, said Friday he met with a Spanish official and is now self-quarantining.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed alarm at the U.S. response, and especially over how few patients have been tested.

“We’re basically, in my opinion, flying blind,” said Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, in several television interviews Friday, said more tests would be available over the next week, but that officials should not wait before trying to mitigate the virus’ effects.

“We will have considerably more testing in the future, but you don’t wait for testing,” Fauci said on ”CBS This Morning.” He said school closings and similar measures are “generally an appropriate approach.”

“We’re at a critical point now as we seek to blunt the rise in cases to make sure it’s a hill, not a mountain,” Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

___

Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani, Alan Fram, Lauran Neergaard, Martin Crutsinger, Laurie Kellman, Michael Balsamo and Kevin Freking in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Terre Haute
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 43°
Robinson
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 42°
Indianapolis
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 41°
Rockville
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 36°
Casey
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 40°
Brazil
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 43°
Marshall
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 43°
Mostly cloudy, a bit warmer.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 350744

Reported Deaths: 9496
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1651985364
DuPage20947598
Lake19546503
Will16898419
Kane15422341
Winnebago9114165
St. Clair7559213
Madison6795152
Champaign568028
McHenry5642120
Peoria424362
McLean386730
Rock Island367088
Unassigned3627260
Sangamon347554
Kankakee316878
Macon256848
Kendall247027
Tazewell240547
LaSalle218460
DeKalb209542
Coles178838
Williamson170958
Boone165524
Adams163315
Clinton158724
Vermilion15417
Jackson143325
Whiteside115222
Randolph114514
Knox10969
Effingham10903
Ogle10527
Grundy8777
Jefferson85844
Monroe84928
Bureau84717
Marion84512
Franklin8406
Stephenson8147
Morgan79624
Henry7945
Christian77125
Macoupin7319
Union73025
McDonough66515
Fayette63019
Crawford6246
Lee6121
Shelby5868
Livingston54910
Montgomery54815
Douglas5458
Logan5434
Woodford54311
Saline5037
Bond4669
Jersey45621
Iroquois45119
Warren4517
Cass44911
Wayne43410
Jo Daviess4275
Perry40616
Fulton4030
Moultrie3755
Carroll3658
Richland31714
Johnson3130
Lawrence3068
Hancock2843
Clay28111
Washington2781
Greene26915
Clark2666
Pike2604
Cumberland2536
Jasper24710
Mason2351
White2351
De Witt2273
Pulaski2261
Mercer2196
Piatt2070
Wabash2055
Ford1799
Menard1591
Massac1412
Edgar1398
Marshall1373
Hamilton1132
Henderson1110
Alexander1081
Gallatin1052
Edwards980
Brown960
Scott930
Putnam850
Schuyler801
Stark792
Calhoun690
Hardin490
Pope361
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 149166

Reported Deaths: 3960
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion24564781
Lake13079350
St. Joseph8788157
Elkhart8371132
Allen7815221
Hamilton5923113
Vanderburgh553050
Tippecanoe350914
Monroe319438
Hendricks3140130
Johnson2972127
Porter293248
Clark282157
Delaware279674
Vigo248837
Madison226991
Cass221020
LaPorte213057
Warrick186563
Kosciusko173121
Floyd172766
Howard157466
Bartholomew138657
Dubois133724
Marshall130626
Henry121828
Boone118648
Grant118039
Wayne117123
Hancock114144
Noble111333
Jackson107412
Morgan91540
Dearborn90328
Daviess83732
Gibson82611
Clinton81316
Shelby78329
Lawrence77832
LaGrange76615
Harrison73324
Knox69610
Putnam69515
DeKalb68611
Posey6745
Steuben5888
Miami5765
Fayette57515
Montgomery56422
White56215
Jasper5464
Greene51237
Scott50613
Decatur49439
Adams4645
Whitley4316
Clay4276
Sullivan42412
Ripley4178
Wells4125
Orange38624
Wabash3859
Starke3847
Huntington3695
Spencer3686
Franklin36325
Jennings35913
Washington3512
Randolph3378
Fulton3292
Jefferson3285
Pike31612
Carroll30813
Perry28914
Jay2816
Fountain2743
Tipton26623
Parke2182
Newton21111
Vermillion2111
Rush2034
Owen1991
Martin1950
Blackford1903
Crawford1481
Pulaski1431
Brown1283
Ohio1187
Benton1070
Union1020
Switzerland840
Warren731
Unassigned0233