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Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus

By
Don Jacobson & Danielle Haynes
President Donald Trump declares a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference at the White House on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
President Donald Trump declares a national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic during a news conference at the White House on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 13 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday, saying that "no resource will be spared" to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The president said the declaration will release up to $50 billion for states to battle the disease, which has sickened more than 1,200 people and killed at least 33 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University figures as of noon Friday.

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"No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever," Trump said during a news conference in the White House's Rose Garden.

Trump called on all states to set up emergency operation centers and all hospitals to activate their emergency preparedness plans immediately.

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He also announced "broad new authority" for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, allowing him to waive certain regulations and requirements to allow "all hospitals maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients."

Under this new authority, Azar will be able to waive requirements and allow doctors to practice at out-of-state hospitals, and allow hospitals to increase bed capacity and length of stay for patients.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said the declaration will allow healthcare facilities to "do everything they possibly can" to contain and mitigate the virus.

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"We still have a long way to go," he said. "There will be many more cases, but we'll take care of that."

Trump said his administration is considering the possibility of removing some countries from the United States' travel ban, and may add Britain after it saw a recent spike in cases.

Global travel restrictions have caused airline fares to plummet, leading Delta Air Lines to announce Friday that it's cutting flights over the next month. There will be a 40 percent reduction in flight capacity and a halt to all flights to Europe -- other than London -- for 30 days. The airline also plans to park up to 300 aircraft and offer voluntary short-term, unpaid leave for employees.

Trump said he also waived all interest on student loans held by the federal government and authorized Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to purchase "large quantities of crude oil" while prices are low.

Speaking to reporters after his announcement, Trump said he and House Democrats haven't come to an agreement on a multi-billion dollar bill to combat the coronavirus.

"We just don't think they're giving enough, we don't think the Democrats are giving enough," he said.

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"We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn't agree to certain things."

Earlier Friday, the Trump administration instituted new measures to speed up the availability of coronavirus testing after facing criticism from health officials and lawmakers over the slow pace of the rollout.

The Department of Health and Human Services appointed Assistant Secretary Brett Giroir to coordinate all COVID-19 testing efforts among an array of federal public health agencies.

HHS also announced it awarded nearly $1.3 million to two private companies developing rapid coronavirus tests that could yield a result within an hour.

The Food and Drug Administration said it gave the state of New York the power to authorize testing laboratories of its own choosing after Gov. Mario Cuomo voiced frustration with the ability of federal officials to manage the testing efforts.

The FDA also issued an emergency authorization for a currently available test made by Roche -- its third such authorization during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The HHS grants were given to DiaSorin Molecular of Cypress, Calif., and Qiagen LLC of Germantown, Md. The companies are developing new types of rapid coronavirus tests, which officials said could be ready for widespread deployment within 6 to 12 weeks.

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The developments came after lawmakers and health officials leveled harsh criticism of the administration's performance in making COVID-19 testing easily available to Americans.

During a hearing of the House oversight committee Thursday, Fauci said that government efforts were failing to provide easy and accessible testing.

"The changes have been made, and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis," Trump said in a pair of tweets Friday morning, while also faulting previous planning efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama.

"All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!" he said.

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