The President of the United States addressed the nation today on the coronavirus. He began by clarifying some of the factual errors from his previous press conference before announcing a National Emergency, triggering the Stafford Act and thereby allowing him to unlock up to 50 billion dollars in relief funds.
“We’ve made tremendous progress,” the president began. “When you compare what we’ve done to other areas of the world, it’s pretty incredible.”
The press conference was announced via tweet (with a questionable exclamation point) and started at roughly 3:30pm ET.
I will be having a news conference today at 3:00 P.M., The White House. Topic: CoronaVirus!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
The key tenets of the first portion of the press conference were:
- Declaring a state of emergency.
- Urging every state to set up emergency medical systems.
- Asking states to activate emergency preparedness plans.
- Conferring new authority to Secretary of Health and Human Services — most of these seem to be waiving red tape connected to hospitals admitting and treating patients and doctors working out of state.
- Widening testing in ways that are, as yet, unclear. Drive-thru options were the stated focus.
- Announcing a Google-created screening site which would direct potential coronavirus carriers to drive-thru testing clinics.
The president then brought up various guests to attest to their involvement in his plan. Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and CVS had their CEOs speak about donating parking lot space and other (yet unseen) measures to support the public during this time. Multiple testing and lab company CEOs spoke about their commitment to work with the administration.
After this roll call, Trump stepped back to the microphone and announced that he was:
- Suspending interest on student loans until a later date.
- Creating an expanded crude oil reserve.
At this point, Vice President Mike Pence took over and praised the president repeatedly for his handling of the crisis. He congratulated the President and recounted the importance of following CDC guidelines.
While it was expected that President Trump might close schools nationwide, he has not done so at this point. Currently, Louisiana, Oregon, Ohio, Maryland, New Mexico, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia have all closed schools for a minimum of two weeks. In California, LA County and San Diego County schools had already announced closures.
The press conference comes after intense criticism of Trump’s handling of the crisis to date. The president has been accused of downplaying the concern in its early stages and not taking the epidemic seriously enough. After Pence spoke, the President returned to the microphone and read a prepared address while occasionally editorializing those comments.
“No nation is is more equipped to face down this crisis,” Trump said, before opening up to questions.
- When asked about taking precautionary measures, he said, “We have no symptoms.”
- When asked if he would take responsibility over the lack of testing, Trump replied, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”
- Asked about closing the Canadian-US border, the President said, “We have not discussed that.”