WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Friday afternoon officially declared a national emergency that he said would give states and territories access to up to $50 billion in federal funds to combat the spreading coronavirus epidemic.
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.
Trump said he was also waiving regulations to allow hospitals 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.
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.
“This will pass, this will pass through, and we will be even stronger for it,” the president said.
Cases in the U.S. have climbed past 1,800, even with sporadic and spare testing, and the death toll has risen to 41.