President Trump has declared a national emergency that he said would give states and territories access to up to $50 billion federal funds to fight the epidemic. He is addressing the nation live from the White House.
Mr. Trump said hospitals would now be able to “do as they want. They could do what they have to do.”
“I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” he said.
“I’m urging every state to set up emergency operations centers effective immediately,” he added
He also gave broad new authority to the health secretary, Alex Azar, who he said would now be able to waive provisions to give doctors and hospitals more flexibility to respond to the virus, including making it easier to treat people remotely.
Mr. Trump said he was waiving interest on student loans, and that with oil prices low, the government would buy large quantities of crude oil for the nation’s strategic reserve.
His comments marked the first time he has addressed the coronavirus as a problem within the country’s borders, not just something that needed to be kept out with travel restrictions.
Mr. Trump, who has been accused of downplaying the crisis, detailed the administration’s efforts to speed testing, which was announced earlier on Friday. He said that millions of virus testing kits would become available, but added that he did not think that many would be needed.
At least 12 U.S. states have declared states of emergency so far over the coronavirus outbreak as global cases exceed 110,000.
On Feb. 29, the U.S. reported the first death from the novel coronavirus in the country, in Washington state.
On March 2, the governor of Washington state declared a state of emergency. In total, 23 people have died from the virus statewide.
The current death toll nationwide is 28 and more than 800 people are infected across the U.S.
Since then, California, Maryland, Utah, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Florida and New Jersey have all declared states of emergency.
Two deaths each have been reported from the virus in California and Florida while New Jersey has reported one death.
The latest states to declare emergencies are North Carolina, Colorado and Massachusetts.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the decision came after a meeting with health experts, business leaders and emergency management in the state and other states.
“The new cases and the advice of these experts have led us to give new guidance to North Carolina residents and to declare a state of emergency for our state,” Cooper said at a press conference Tuesday.
The coronavirus, officially known also COVID-19, was first detected last December in Wuhan, China.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is now over 4,260, with more than 118,100 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The virus has since spread to six continents and more than 100 countries.