President Trump is set to declare a national emergency on Friday over the coronavirus outbreak, a news agency reports.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump will invoke the Stafford Act “to open the door to more federal aid for states and municipalities, according to two people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg News reports.
“The move would allow the government to martial additional resources to combat the virus, and also marks a symbolic turning point for the president, who has repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and insisted that his administration had the outbreak under control,” the news agency reported.
Senate Democrats have urged Trump to invoke the Stafford Act and other disaster declaration requests they say would free up more than $42 billion in funding for states available in the Disaster Relief Fund.
An emergency declaration would allow a state to request a 75% federal cost-share for expenses that include emergency workers, medical tests, medical supplies, vaccinations, security for medical facilities, and more, according to a letter Democrats sent the president earlier this week.
Only a few emergency declarations for public health threats have been made since the 1960s, and only two have targeted disease outbreaks, when President Bill Clinton in 2000 declared emergencies in New York and New Jersey in response to the West Nile Virus.
The president is set to hold a press conference at 3 p.m. EDT on Friday.
On Friday morning, Trump criticized his predecessor former President Barack Obama for refusing to fix issues at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and allegedly making “changes” that only “complicated” the problems, The Daily Wire reported. The president told the public that his administration, however, has cut through the “red tape” and are now “ready to go.”
“For decades the [CDC] looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it,” Trump posted to social media. “It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped.”
“President Obama made changes that only complicated things further,” the president said.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump said that the Obama administration’s “response to H1N1 Swine flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now.”
“The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!” he assured the public.
Meanwhile, White House coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Friday that the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. would last for two months and that “it’s all on the table” in terms of how bad it could become.
“It’s certainly going to get worse before it gets better… there’s no doubt we have not peaked yet,” he said.
Asked if America is heading toward a complete shutdown like China and Italy, Fauci said it’s possible. “I’m not sure we’re going to get to that. I think that would be really rather dramatic, but I can tell you that all things are on the table. We just have to respond as things evolve over the days and the weeks,” he said.