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‘Two Very Big Words’: Trump Announces National Emergency for Coronavirus

President Trump held a news conference to declare a national emergency in order to free up to $50 billion in federal funds to combat the spread of coronavirus.

“To unleash the full power of the federal government, in this effort today I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words. The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion of very importantly, very important, and a large amount of money for states and territories and localities, in our shared fight against this disease. We’ll remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need, and that they’re entitled to — no resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever.” Reporter: “Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, a failing. Do you take responsibility for that? And when can you guarantee that every single American who needs a test will be able to have a test? What’s the date of that?” “Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances. And we were given rules, regulations and specifications from a different time. It wasn’t meant for this kind of an event.”

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President Trump held a news conference to declare a national emergency in order to free up to $50 billion in federal funds to combat the spread of coronavirus.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President 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.

In a live address in the White House Rose Garden, he also gave broad new authority to the health secretary, Alex Azar, who he said would now be able to waive regulations, giving doctors and hospitals more flexibility to respond to the virus, including making it easier to treat people remotely.

Confirmed cases in the United States have climbed to more than 2,100, even with sparse testing, and the death toll has risen to at least 48. Only West Virginia and Montana had yet to report a known case of the virus by Friday evening. The United States is facing the prospect that those numbers could grow exponentially, as they did in China, Italy, South Korea and other countries.

“I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “I’m urging every state to set up emergency operations centers effective immediately.”

Mr. Trump said he was waiving interest on student loans, and that with oil prices low, the government would buy large quantities of crude oil for the nation’s strategic reserve.

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. But the optics of the address offered a contrast to the social distancing that many experts recommend: Mr. Trump and the top advisers he invited to speak crowded together around the lectern and shared a microphone.

Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both lauded the administration’s efforts, and the president particularly praised the measures to keep the virus from entering the country. However, some Americans returning from coronavirus hot spots say they are not being screened for symptoms.

Mr. Trump, who has been accused of downplaying the crisis, detailed the administration’s efforts to speed testing, which was announced earlier on Friday. He said that millions of virus testing kits would become available, but added that he did not think so many would be needed.

“We don’t want everybody taking this test,” he said. “It’s totally unnecessary.”

“This will pass, this will pass through, and we will be even stronger for it,” the president said.

Asked if he would be tested for the coronavirus because of his contact at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, with an infected Brazilian official, he said, “most likely, yeah,” countering earlier White House statements that he would not be tested.

“I think I will do it anyway. Fairly soon,” he said.

Even as he spoke, news emerged that a second person who was at Mar-a-Lago had been found to have the coronavirus.

In an email on Friday, the Trump Victory committee said that one of roughly 1,000 donors who attended a fundraising event with Mr. Trump at the estate last Sunday had tested positive. A Republican National Committee official said the donor never came in contact with the president.

ImageSpeaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the urgency of testing while discussing an emergency spending package she said the House would vote on on Friday.

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

Congress and the White House struck a deal on Friday on a sweeping coronavirus package to assist people impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus, moving to confront a growing pandemic that has upended lives and wreaked havoc on financial markets.

The House was set to vote on the plan on Friday evening, after a roller-coaster day of negotiations that threatened to veer off track as President Trump criticized the plan during a Rose Garden news conference.

Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying, “We are proud to have reached an agreement with the administration to resolve outstanding challenges.”

The measure includes two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing including for those who lack insurance, additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid.

The deal is a product of an intense round of talks that unfolded between Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, as financial markets swung wildly amid uncertainty about the spiraling crisis.

Stocks rallied on Friday, rebounding from their worst day in more than 30 years after Mr. Trump said leaders of private U.S. companies had agreed to help with efforts to test for the coronavirus and declared a national emergency that would free billions in funding for states and territories.

The S&P 500 rose more than 9 percent on Friday, with most of the gains coming as government officials and business executives spoke at a news conference at the White House.

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Mr. Trump said the administration was working with Google to develop a website to determine whether an individual needs a test — a move aimed at avoiding overwhelming the health system with people who are ill but do not necessarily need to be tested for coronavirus.

The chief executives of Walmart, Target and Walgreens all said they had agreed to make facilities available for testing.

Financial markets have been nothing if not inconsistent for the past three weeks, plunging and then rising, and then plunging again, as each day brought new measures to contain the outbreak and new worries that the economy, workers and businesses would take a hit as a result of them.

The Trump administration moved on Friday to drastically speed up coronavirus testing, rushing to catch up with surging demand for tests.

The government gave the Swiss health care giant Roche emergency permission to sell its three-and-a-half hour test to U.S. labs, and said it was awarding over a million dollars to two companies to accelerate development of one-hour tests.

Testing has lagged in the country, infuriating the public, local leaders and members of Congress. Sick people across the country say they are being denied tests. Administration officials have promised repeatedly that enormous numbers of tests would soon be available, only to have the reality fall far short.

“I don’t take responsibility at all,” President Trump said in response to a reporter’s question on Friday, “because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules regulations and specifications from a different time.”

While South Korea is testing 10,000 people a day, overall U.S. state and federal testing has yet to log even 15,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted the urgency on Friday, while discussing an emergency spending package she said the House would pass later in the day, saying, “The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing.”

The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday assigned an assistant secretary, Adm. Brett P. Giroir, to oversee testing efforts. A day earlier, in a congressional hearing, top health officials were unable to say who was in charge of making sure that people who needed tests got them.

One of them, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, finally responded: “The system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.”

“The idea of anybody getting it, easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we are not set up for that,” Dr. Fauci added. “Do I think we should be? Yes. But we are not.”

On Friday, the federal government said that it would allow New York State’s public health department to authorize local labs to perform coronavirus tests.

By next week, New York could be conducting 6,000 tests a day, the governor said. On Friday, the state opened a “drive through” testing facility in New Rochelle, a city north of New York City that has been at the center of the state’s epidemic.

“My guess is there are thousands and thousands of cases walking around the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday, underscoring that the official count of 421 cases, even as it inches up, is not representative of total spread of the virus in the state.

Nearly every sport has been affected; the Boston Marathon and the Masters golf tournament were called off on Friday.

Trying to answer that question, epidemiologists arrived at some terrifying estimates of what would happen if — and this was a very big “if” — nothing was done to stop the spread: more than a million Americans could die, and hospitals would be swamped with many times more patients than beds.

Last month, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and experts from around the world conferred quietly about the range of possibilities, with what was known then about the virus. The agency presented a range of possibilities based on variables that remain how hard to pin down, like how contagious the virus is, and how severe the resulting illnesses are.

The estimates were 160 million to 214 million people in the United States infected, or nearly half to two-thirds of the population; 2.4 million to 21 million people needing hospitalization; and 200,000 to 1.7 million dead. The results were not publicized, but have been reviewed by The New York Times.

Those figures represented the worst-case scenario, with no organized intervention, and clearly government at all levels is intervening, as are private organizations and individuals. But they give an idea of the potential seriousness of the disease.

“When people change their behavior,” said Lauren Gardner, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering who models epidemics, “those model parameters are no longer applicable,” so short-term forecasts are likely to be more accurate.

“There is a lot of room for improvement if we act appropriately,” she said.

An employee who works in a Washington State prison tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokeswoman for the state prison system said on Friday, in what appeared to be the first reported case of the virus in a person tied to a prison.

The employee last worked at the Monroe Correctional Complex, about 45 minutes from Seattle, on Sunday, and the test came back positive on Thursday.

The revelation comes as the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the federal prisons that hold more than 175,000 people, suspended all visits to prisoners for 30 days, including most by lawyers. The agency said prisons would evaluate requests for exceptions on a case-by-case basis. The bureau said the densely packed nature of prisons “creates a risk of infection and transmission for inmates and staff.”

Many state prison systems and local jails, where the vast majority of imprisoned people are held, also suspended visits this week. A jail in Santa Clara County, Calif., placed inmates in quarantine after a visitor later tested positive for the virus, The Mercury News reported.

Advocates have sounded alarms over whether U.S. correctional facilities are adequately prepared to stop an outbreak within their walls. Much of the advice given by the C.D.C. — such as staying away from sick people and disinfecting surfaces — can be nearly impossible to follow in prison.

The prison in Washington State will put two units into quarantine for 10 days, restricting the movement of prisoners, a spokeswoman for the prison system said, adding that employees will also begin more frequent cleaning.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said on Friday that public schools would remain open, even as three more schools closed for the day after coronavirus cases were reported there.

“There are three pillars to protecting this city and the long-term health and safety of our people: Our schools, our mass transit and our health care system,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Those three are interrelated deeply. You take one out of the equation and it affects the others. My goal is to keep all three of those going.”

New York is the country’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students, about 114,000 of them homeless. Closings could have a severe effect on parents who will need to find child care, and on the many students who depend on the cafeteria for food and the school for shelter.

The Los Angeles and San Diego school districts said they were canceling school beginning on Monday, affecting more than 750,000 students in Southern California.

The Los Angeles public school district is the second-largest in the United States, with 670,000 students. The decision is the latest in a slew of similar moves across the country affecting more than six million students.

All public schools, and many if not all private schools, in Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Washington State, Oregon, Kentucky, and New Mexico were told to close beginning next week. The Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, also said it was closing for two weeks.

In Los Angeles, about 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and just under 20,000 are homeless at some point during the school year. The district is also the second-largest employer in California’s largest county.

In Washington State, where more than 30 people have died from the virus, more than anywhere else in the country, public health officials have escalated through most of a 13-step strategy checklist for controlling infectious outbreaks and now have only a few remaining options: closing workplaces, restricting people to their homes and cordoning off targeted areas to help control the spread of infection, measures that have already been put in place in other parts of the world.



Fear, Humor, Defiance: How the World Is Reacting to Coronavirus

The coronavirus has touched a diverse collection of countries and cultures, but a number of shared experiences have emerged — from grieving the dead to writing songs.

[Bagpipe music] There are moments that seem bizarre, moments of fear … … preparation and moments of emptiness. These are scenes from the world living with coronavirus. It has spread across cultures, languages and even out to sea. And despite these global differences, a number of shared experiences have emerged. There is grief over the dead. In Iran, hospital staff mourn a doctor’s death from the virus. In China, a quarantined building collapses, and a firefighter breaks down after pulling bodies from the rubble. In Italy, a man mourns the death of his sister. To try and save lives, authorities take precautions. They disinfect public areas and screen populations. “This is just crazy. Around the world, people are afraid and on edge. “Unbelievable.” In Northern Ireland, routine construction work at an Apple Store is mistaken for virus-related activity. In Japan, tempers flare when a man sneezes on a train. One Italian takes the fear and adds humor. This is a circle to keep people at a safe distance. In fact, lots of people use humor to cope with the uncertainty or the stigma of being sick. In Australia, a run on toilet paper leads to lessons in self-defense. “He’s going to show you how to deal with people stealing your toilet paper.” There is also defiance, a conviction that life must go on despite the virus. Across rooftops in China, quarantined neighbors socialize. From a rooftop in Italy, a theater group performs poetry for an area where movement is restricted. On a quarantined cruise ship, there’s songwriting to pass the time. In an apartment in China, too. But perhaps some of the most striking moments from the pandemic are those where little happens: the empty streets. “Unbelievable. No traffic.” The quiet airports. The places of worship without worshippers. Stores without goods. This is how it is across the globe as we prepare, grieve and wait for the next chapter of the coronavirus.

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The coronavirus has touched a diverse collection of countries and cultures, but a number of shared experiences have emerged — from grieving the dead to writing songs.CreditCredit…Carlos Lemos/EPA, via Shutterstock

Political leaders are considering their options, alarmed over research that suggests 400 people in the Seattle area could die in the coming weeks if the trajectory of the outbreak cannot be altered. The research shows that if policymakers could reduce the transmission rate by 75 percent — primarily through what is known as “social distancing” — then the number of deaths could be reduced to only about 30 in that period.

One official said that none of the options were off the table, but that officials were mindful of the tremendous burden that such restrictions could impose on families and businesses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada is self-isolating after his wife tested positive, and Canada’s Parliament went into recess.

A top adviser to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive days after he, Mr. Bolsonaro and other Brazilian officials met with Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, raising fears that both presidents might have been exposed. Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, who also met the Brazilian delegation, said on Friday that he tested positive.

The Australian minister for home affairs, Peter Dutton, tested positive on Friday, days after meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr and Ivanka Trump.

In Iran, the virus has felled members of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s inner circle.

The reach of the virus into the world’s highest political reaches is a stark reminder — if one is needed — that the pathogen knows no boundaries.

Mr. Bolsonaro said on Friday that he had tested negative, though people in the early stages of infection often do. Mr. Barr stayed home on Friday as a precautionary measure, but was not tested, a spokeswoman said.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on Friday he would extend his self-quarantine to March 17 after learning he had come into contact with a second individual who has tested positive, though he still had no symptoms. Two other Republican senators, Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have also preemptively isolated themselves after exposure to others.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain said on Friday that the country would be placed under a state of emergency for 15 days, which could allow his government to restrict the movement of citizens, ration goods and impose other measures to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

The decision came as Spain’s caseload rose to about 4,200 cases, the most in Europe after Italy’s more than 17,600. The Spanish death toll reached 120 on Friday.

European caseloads overall jumped to more than 35,000 on Friday, nearly double the number three days earlier. France’s case count rose by 800, reaching more than 3,600. Germany’s rose by a similar number to more than 3,100.

Earlier Friday, Spain ordered its first mandatory lockdowns, of four towns in Catalonia, with about 70,000 people.

In a brief televised address, Mr. Sánchez said that the state of emergency would come into force on Saturday, after a ministerial meeting, and that it was designed to use “all the resources of the state to protect better the citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable to the virus.”

Mr. Sánchez said that Spain and other European countries were “only in the first phase of the fight against the virus.” He warned that Spain could reach 10,000 cases in coming weeks.

The only other time that Spain declared a state of emergency was in 2010, when the government ordered the military to break up a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers that brought to air traffic to a standstill.

Today, we look at how the places you interact with daily are ensuring they stay safe while still being able to function, including how gyms should be disinfecting their equipment, new guidance for building managers, and how needed changes may affect workers.

Louisiana will postpone its April 4th primary election for two months, becoming the first state in the nation to adjust its elections in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Today I have certified that a state of emergency exists and requested that the governor issue an executive order postponing the elections this spring,” the secretary of state, R. Kyle Ardoin, said at a news conference. He referenced the state’s decision to postpone elections after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as precedent.

Concern for public health, and particularly the health of poll workers whom Mr. Ardoin noted are mostly senior citizens, led officials to decide on postponing the primary.

The presidential primary will now be held on June 20, and municipal elections until July 25.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Ernesto Londoño, Melissa Eddy, Aurelien Breeden, Constant Méheut, Elisabetta Povoledo, Ivan Nechepurenko, Davey Alba, Raphael Minder, Karen Zraick, Andy Newman, Steven Erlanger, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Steven Lee Myers, Andrew Higgins, Damien Cave, Farah Stockman, Hannah Beech, Heather Murphy, Gillian Wong, Jorge Arangure, Bhadra Sharma, Emily Cochrane, Jeanna Smialek, Jim Tankersley, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Nick Corasaniti, Mike Baker, Miriam Jordan, Jason Horowitz, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Katie Benner, Sarah Mervosh, Patricia Mazzei, Neil Vigdor and Rick Gladstone.

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