Trump declares national emergency to fight COVID-19
President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency today in response to COVID-19, a move he said will provide $50 billion to fight the pandemic.
“Those are two very big words,” the president said at a press conference. “The action I am taking will open up access to a very important, large amount of money for states, territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease.”
Trump also said that the number of COVID-19 tests being produced and used in the country will be accelerated. The federal government has faced a wave of criticism over its response to the pandemic — particularly regarding testing.
Trump noted that the tests should be used prudently.
“We want to make sure those that need a [COVID-19] test can get a test safely, quickly and conveniently,” Trump said. “But we don’t want those [who don’t have symptoms] taking a test.”
Trump added that the overall risk for Americans contracting COVID-19 remains “very low.” The president said he will ask every state to set up emergency response centers and hospitals to activate their emergency response plans.
During the press conference, members of the Trump administration said an online COVID-19 screening questionnaire is being developed that will prompt individuals to enter their symptoms. If an individual’s symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, he or she will be provided with the closest testing location. Also during the press conference, representatives of pharmacies, retail stores and diagnostic labs pledged to utilize their resources to fight the disease.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said during the press conference that although it remains difficult to predict when the number of COVID-19 cases will hit its peak, these actions will make a difference.
“With this order, we can remove the constraints for everyone. Those at the state and local level, the individual physician, everyone up to the federal level [will have constraints removed] to help with mitigation and containment,” Fauci said. “We still have a long way to go, but ultimately [COVID-19] will end.”
The AMA swiftly applauded the president’s declaration.
“The AMA commends the administration for declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a national emergency,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, president of AMA, said in a press release. “This emergency declaration is necessary to help ensure America’s health care system has sufficient resources to properly respond to the ongoing outbreak, prevent further spread of illness, and keep our communities safe.”
The president’s press conference came several hours after WHO announced that the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide has exceeded 132,000, the number of deaths has topped 5,000 and the epicenter of the pandemic has shifted to Europe.
“[Europe has] more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined other than China,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, said at a news conference. “More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of their epidemic.”
Earlier this week, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic based on what Tedros called “alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming level of inaction.”
WHO establishes relief fund
WHO also announced today that it was launching the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to purchase supplies for physicians, improve surveillance, increase research into the disease and support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Until now, we have been relying mainly on governments to support the response,” Tedros said. “We thank all those countries. Now, everyone can contribute.”
Multiple entities have already asked how they can assist in pandemic relief efforts, Elizabeth Cousens, CEO and president of the United Nations Foundation, said during the news conference.
“We have seen an extraordinary outpouring of interest from all sectors to help,” she said during the call. “We wanted to provide a fast, efficient vehicle for all sectors to help WHO frontline effort in this fight. That’s what COVID-19 Response Fund is all about.”
Disclosures: Fauci reports no relevant financial disclosures. Harris is president of AMA.