President Trump Declares National Health Emergency; Washington and Private Sector Join for Immediate Action
March 13, 2020 (EIRNS)—At a Rose Garden press conference this afternoon, President Donald Trump declared a national health emergency, conferring expanded authority on agencies of the federal government—Health and Human Services—and enlisting the cooperation of the private sector (pharmaceutical companies and retailers) in order to aggressively address the expanding novel coronavirus crisis threatening the country.
“The federal government will use every tool at its disposal” to ensure success, the President vowed, and also pointed to the excellent team work he would established with state governors—he named New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom in particular—as well as with the private sector, several of whose representatives stood beside him. Director of the NIH National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci was also present.
The declaration of emergency will allow for the following:
• release under the Stafford Act up to $50 billion for states, territories and localities to be deployed
• every state will be asked to set up emergency stations, and hospitals to activate emergency preparedness plans, “to meet the needs of Americans everywhere”
• freeing up resources from military reserves of equipment
• broad new authority will be conferred on Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, allowing him to waive revisions of applicable laws and regulations, so that doctors, hospitals and healthcare providers “may have maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients”
• that “flexibility” includes waiving laws to enable telehealth (used so successfully in China). Certain federal licensing requirements will be waived so that doctors from other states can provide services in states in greatest need.
• testing will be accelerated, through a new partnership with the private sector, to ensure that those who need a test can get it safely and quickly. Discussions with pharmacies and retailers underway to make drive-through tests available—automated high-throughput systems—“in the critical locations identified by public health professionals.” A special website is being set up by Google to allow people to find a convenient drive-through testing location, and these locations will be set up around the country, Trump said, with cooperation from retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, Target, CVS, and others. He referenced the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had just granted emergency approval for a new high-speed coronavirus test developed by Roche Holding, which can provide results in four hours.
Asked about his previous criticism of the CDC’s lag in COVID-19 testing, Dr. Fauci said that what the President had outlined was an example of a proactive effort to stay “ahead of the curve,” removing constraints while simultaneously applying containment and mitigation. He didn’t play down the dangers or the likelihood of many more cases emerging, but emphasized that “this is a big step forward.”
Throughout the conference the President was relentless in praising China’s response, President Xi Jinping, and trade with China.