Trump declares emergency to free more funding to fight coronavirus pandemic
President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is declaring the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, as Washington struggles with providing Americans with relief and officials race to slow the spread of the outbreak.
Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency.” He said the emergency would open up $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.
Trump said he was also giving Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar emergency authorities to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.
Trump spoke as negotiations continue between the White House and Congress on an aid package, but there was no announcement of a breakthrough, as House Democrats prepare to vote on their own measure Friday.
Meanwhile, U.S. hospitals are setting up circus-like triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients.
Depending on how bad the crisis gets, the sick could find themselves waiting on stretchers in emergency room hallways for hospital beds to open up, or could be required to share rooms with others infected. Some doctors fear hospitals could become so overwhelmed that they could be forced to ration medical care.
“This is going to be a fairly tremendous strain on our health system,” warned Dr. William Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
The United States is still facing an active flu season, and many hospitals are already running at capacity caring for those patients. The new virus will only add to that burden, said Dr. Bruce Ribner an infectious-disease specialist at Emory University’s medical school.
This breaking story will be updated.