APTOPIX Trump Virus Outbreak

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington.

(The Center Square) – President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday over the spread of the novel coronavirus that has upended Americans' lives and so far has resulted in 42 deaths.

"I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said during a Friday afternoon news conference.

Saying the U.S. is in a new phase of what the World Health Organization labeled a pandemic, Trump called for a "shared sacrifice" by the American people so "we can get past this."

The declaration makes available up to $50 billion of federal funds to help stop the spread of the disease and frees up other federal resources. He asked every hospital in the country to activate their disaster plans to help deal with the crisis and every state to establish emergency response centers.

"No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever," Trump said.

The president announced a public-private partnership to make available more tests. A new test already has been approved for the marketplace by the FDA. And he said that 1.4 million new tests will be available by next week, 5 million in a month.

Trump introduced the leaders of a number of private businesses, including Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens, who are doing their part to help.

Trump said there would be an expansion of tele-medicine so hospitals don't become overwhelmed.

He said he's given "broad new authorities" to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to "waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospitals ... and health care providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus."

"The next eight weeks are critical" to turn the corner on this virus, he said.

Through an executive order, Trump said he waived interest on all college loans for the time being as many colleges and universities are suspending in-class coursework and turning to virtual classrooms.

The president also said he instructed his energy secretary to purchase large quantities of oil to add to the federal reserve.

"We're going to fill it right up to the top," he said.

More than 1,800 cases of the COVID-19 disease have been confirmed in the U.S. with 42 known deaths so far. More than 128,000 people have contracted the virus globally, causing at least 4,700 deaths.

Congress also is expected Friday to approve a package of measures that would allow for free coronavirus testing, paid emergency sick leave, and new funding for food programs and Medicaid.

As a result of fears over COVID-19, stocks plummeted over the past two weeks, sending major indexes into bear market territory for the first time since the Great Recession.

Over the past 48 hours, the NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer suspended their seasons, the NCAA cancelled all remaining post-season tournaments including for men's and women's basketball, and Major League Baseball ended its spring training and announced the start of the regular season would be pushed back by at least two weeks.

Trump put new travel restrictions on travel from Europe.

Colleges and K-12 schools across the country are suspending in-person classes. Some are providing internet-based virtual learning opportunities. At least eight states cancelled classes for all students.

​Dan McCaleb is the executive editor of The Center Square. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at dmccaleb@thecentersquare.com.

Executive Editor

Dan McCaleb is a veteran editor and has worked in journalism for more than 25 years. Most recently, McCaleb served as editorial director of Shaw Media and the top editor of the award-winning Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago.