President Donald Trump on Friday declared the Coronavirus to be a national emergency, opening up billions of dollars in funding for state and local governments, as a series of major companies agreed to cooperate in a partnership with the White House to help test thousands of Americans for the disease.
"I am officially declaring a national emergency," the President said from the White House Rose Garden. "Two big words."
"The action I am taking will open up access to over $50 billion," Mr. Trump added.
"Pursuant to section 201 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1621), I hereby report that I have exercised my authority to declare that the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the United States constitutes a national emergency," the President stated in a formal message to the Congress.
President Trump: "To unleash the full power of the federal government for this effort today I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words."— CSPAN (@cspan) March 13, 2020
Full video here: https://t.co/bTZ8eza3pA pic.twitter.com/8MkMOSZ1gU
Flanking the President before reporters were top officials from major companies like Walmart, CVS, Target, and Walgreens, along with medical testing companies like LabCorp and Roche - all pledging to help Americans deal with the virus outbreak.
"Our overriding goal is to stop the spread of the virus and help all Americans who have been impacted by this," the President said, as the feds try to tamp down complaints from people who have not been able to access a test for the virus.
"We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test safely, quickly, and conveniently," the President told reporters, though he swiftly emphasized that it was not for everyone.
"But we don't want people to take a test if we feel they shouldn't be doing it," Mr. Trump added.
CORONAVIRUS TESTING: Trump says the FDA has approved new testing for #coronavirus and expects to bring "1.4 million tests on board next week, and five million within a month"— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 13, 2020
"We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test safely, quickly, and conveniently." pic.twitter.com/tAg98WLGgd
When pressed about the lack of testing - and the stories of people unable to get tested even at the direction of doctors - the President said it wasn't his fault.
"I don't take responsibility at all," President Trump said, once again trying to blame the previous administration over three years after President Obama left office.
“It wasn't meant for this kind of event, with the kind of numbers that we're talking about,” the President added, though officials from the Obama Administration have disputed his assertions.
Pressed later on why he had dismantled a National Security Council group which worked on pandemic response, Mr. Trump accused a reporter of asking him a 'nasty' question.
Reporter: “Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, a failure. Do you take responsibility for that?”— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 13, 2020
President Trump: “I don't take responsibility at all … It wasn't meant for this kind of an event”
Finally, the President was asked why he had not been tested as yet for the Coronavirus, given that he has been in contact with people who have tested positive, or others who had such contact.
"I didn't say I wasn't going to get tested," Mr. Trump said, on the third time he was asked about the matter.
"Are you going to be?" a reporter pressed.
"Most likely, yeah," the President responded, though he gave no time frame for that test, as he said there was no need for him to self-quarantine, as some other GOP lawmakers have done.
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