President Trump declared a national emergency today in a press conference at the White House Rose Garden. Trump did not cite the provision he would use to declare the emergency but did state that under the Stafford Act he had “very strong emergency powers…and if I need to do something, I’ll do it.” If the funds come from the Stafford Act, it would give states and local governments access to up to $50 billion in disaster relief funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The President asked states to set up emergency operations centers.
Trump announced that the federal government will be partnering with the private sector to improve testing. Trump stated that Google will develop a website to assist with the effort to establish drive-thru tests in critical locations. The CEO of Wal-Mart, Doug McMillon, spoke at the Rose Garden, stating that his company would make room in their parking lots for drive-thru testing. The President stated that half a million tests would be available next week and 5 million by next month, though he added, “I doubt we will need anywhere need that.”
Further, Trump gave Health and Human Services broad authority to give doctors and hospitals “maximum flexibility” to respond to the virus and care for patients. This could include reducing the time in hospitals before transferring to rehabilitation facilities and other practices that could free up hospital beds more quickly.
When asked by a reporter if he took responsibility for the lag in testing, Trump responded that “I don’t take responsibility at all.” When pressed further on his disbanding of the White House Pandemic Office, the President said “I think that it’s a nasty question…when you say me, I didn’t do it… I don’t know anything about it….we are doing a great job.”
Today’s declaration comes a little over a month after the declaration of Public Health Emergency and days after the World Health Organization recognized COVID-19 as a pandemic.