This story has been updated.
After downplaying the Coronavirus in early stages of the outbreak, President Donald Trump took action on Wednesday night. Addressing the nation from the oval office, Trump froze all travel from Europe to the US (excepting the UK) for the next 30 days. He also said there will be restrictions on Americans coming from Europe, though how exactly that will work is vaguer. (See below for updates.)
“From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges — including large-scale and very dangerous health threats,” Trump said in a video address. “This is the way it always was and the way it always will be. It only matters how you respond and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.”
The EU travel ban is slated to go into effect Friday at midnight, according to the president. He added, “There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.”
The president mentioned the WHO’s acknowledgment that this is a pandemic but underscored that the situation has improved in China and South Korea and opened the door to a potential change on the just-issued restrictions.
Changing gears to address the domestic situation, Trump said the following:
- Medical insurers have agreed to waive co-pays for Coronavirus related treatment.
- He is urging nursing homes to suspend non-medical visitation.
- “Older Americans should avoid non-essential travel in crowded areas.”
- He and the CDC want anyone who is sick to stay home and for all citizens to maintain “safe social distancing.”
- He will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend economic relief for employers in order to offer extended sick leave.
- He will be asking the Small Business Administration to provide low-interest loans for small businesses. The request of congress will be 50 billion dollars.
- He will be asking Congress to defer tax payments for “certain businesses and individuals that are impacted.”
- He will be asking Congress for payroll tax relief.
The president continued: “I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. If we are vigilant… the virus will not have a chance against us.”
Trump went on to praise the economy, scientists, and medical professionals. He ended on a warm note: “Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.”
It seems as though certain statements about the travel ban were too broad on Trump’s part. David Lauter, Washington Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times, tweeted that the ban only applies to foreign nationals.
Europe travel ban that Trump announced applies to foreign nationals who have been in Europe within 14 days of arrival in US. Does not apply to permanent US residents, citizens or immediate family of citizens, per Dept of Homeland Security.
— David Lauter (@DavidLauter) March 12, 2020
That was confirmed in a statement by Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the department of homeland security.
The action @POTUS is taking to deny entry to foreign nationals who have been in coronavirus-affected areas will keep Americans safe & save lives. These are not easy decisions but they are required. I will issue guidance within 48 hours outlining details.https://t.co/KYXE7JKswC pic.twitter.com/zgi6r5FoZq
— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) March 12, 2020
Meanwhile, Trump’s claims about insurers waiving copays for treatment seem to be unverified.
🚨The White House is currently walking back *three* false policy announcements Trump made during his nationally televised address. pic.twitter.com/W1WbWCygGI
— Corey Ciorciari (@CoreyCiorciari) March 12, 2020
This story will be updated.