President Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency and announced a partnership with several major corporations, putting the nation on a war footing to combat the spread of a disease that has already infected more than 137,000 people worldwide.
“We will defeat this threat. When America is tested, America rises to the occasion,” Trump said in a Rose Garden press conference as he declared a national emergency.
The declaration will free up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak. Trump also announced executive actions to bolster energy markets, ease the financial burden of student loans and give medical professionals “flexibility” in treating patients.
Federal health authorities are working with Google on a website that will help people self-screen — and reduce the wasteful use of COVID-19 tests.
“I want to thank Google, Google is helping to develop a website, it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” Trump said. “Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now.”
Trump then introduced the CEOs of several major corporations, including Walmart, Target, CVS and Quest Diagnostics, that are providing services to expand the federal government’s effort.
Walmart, CVS and Walgreens will set up coronavirus testing stations in their parking lots across the country. CVS and Walgreens also plan to waive drug delivery fees. Quest Diagnostics is stepping up test production.
“When we got the call yesterday from the White House, we were eager to do our part to help serve the country,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said. “And given what we are facing that is certainly important to do. We should all be doing that.”
Late Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a deal with the Trump administration for an aid package from Congress that would provide free tests, sick pay for workers and bolster food programs.
In other measures, Trump waived interest on federally held student loans and acted to prop up energy markets, directing the Department of Energy to buy oil to fill the strategic petroleum reserve “‘right up to the top.” He is giving Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar emergency authorities to waive federal regulations and laws as needed.
“Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice, national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus,” Trump said.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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