Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said the action would “unleash the full power of the federal government.”
Trump is declaring both a national emergency and invoking the Stafford Act, which gives access to additional funding, according to a source familiar with his decision. He said $50 billion will be dedicated fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Even as he announcing a scaling up of testing capacity for coronavirus, the President said Friday he did not believe all Americans should rush to be tested.
“We don’t want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it. And we don’t want everybody running out and taking — only if you have certain symptoms,” he said in the Rose Garden. “We don’t want everybody taking this test. it’s totally unnecessary,” he said.
Trump has been under pressure to take more decisive action as the virus begins altering everyday life for nearly every American.
He spelled out plans Friday to increase testing, a critical early failure that public health experts said led to further outbreak.
Trump said he was working with private sector companies including Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS to develop drive-through testing facilities across the country, like they have used in other countries. He also said Google will set up a site where people can go to find out if they should get a test and then be directed to their nearest testing location.
Still, Trump said all Americans should not rush to be tested.
“We don’t want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn’t be doing it, and we don’t want everybody running out and taking — only if you have certain symptoms,” Trump said.
On Thursday, CNN reported that Trump had decided to make the declaration but that it was still undergoing legal review at the White House.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, spoke to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday and requested the Trump administration declare an emergency to provide vital assistance to states such as Washington on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, a Washington state official told CNN.
The official told CNN they are “hopeful that (Friday’s) announcement will provide the kinds of assistance that the governor requested.”
White House aides have been weighing the move for the past several days as a way to provide more resources for combating the coronavirus outbreak. Trump is also debating whether to support a legislative package to combat the outbreak negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“We have things that I can do, we have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act,” Trump told reporters Thursday in the Oval Office, referring to the federal law that dictates national disasters and emergencies. “I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I’ll do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.”
But he stopped short of saying whether he planned to approve the new declaration later in the day.
“I don’t want to say that,” he said.
The declaration would free up funding and allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to head up certain aspects of the outbreak response.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in conjunction with Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state and Gary Peters of Michigan, sent a letter asking Trump to “immediately” consider disaster declaration requests for the coronavirus.