President Donald Trump has moved forward with a federal emergency declaration over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
"To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump stated.
The declaration has several implications in terms of escalating the federal government’s outbreak response.
Firstly, the decision means that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will take a larger role in coordinating the response. The agency’s resources and funding are now more readily available for control efforts. FEMA will work with different state governments to determine case-by-case needs.
Secondly, the action opens access to up to $50 billion for states, territories, and localities dealing with the outbreak. Trump also said that every state will set up an emergency operations center, and that the secretary of Department Health and Human Services would be empowered to waive some regulations in order to better mitigate viral spread.
The decision comes as the United States looks to ramp up testing, with the US Food and Drug Administration granting emergency use authorization
for a COVID-19 diagnostic produced by Roche.
In his emergency declaration, Trump said that 1.4 million tests would be made available in the next week.
Trump also announced that drive-by testing would be made available, a move facilitated by a meeting he held with Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, LabCorp, and Quest Diagnostics. The testing could take place in retail parking lots. South Korea has used the practice in its outbreak control effort.
The World Health Organization now considers the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic.
More than 135,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported around the world. Of these cases, 4900 have died. At least 69,000 individuals have recovered.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the United States has now passed 1700 with 40 associated deaths. Several states have passed their own large spending bills
to address the outbreak. The US is also barring most travel from Europe.
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