Trump weighing potential emergency declaration for coronavirus
President Trump is weighing whether to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus, which would free up additional resources to combat the rapidly spreading disease.
The president indicated to reporters that using an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act was under consideration, but would not say definitively whether he would sign it on Thursday.
“We have things that I can do. We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act,” he said during an Oval Office meeting with the Irish prime minister. “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.”
Asked if he planned to declare a national emergency on Thursday, Trump deflected.
“I don’t want to say that, but you know, at some point,” he said.
Trump can declare a national emergency or a major disaster declaration under the Stafford Act, which would enable the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mobilize additional resources and funding to fight the coronavirus.
There were roughly 1,300 people with confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Thursday morning, and 37 people had died from the virus, according to The New York Times.
Trump’s remarks Thursday came a day after he announced that the U.S. would restrict travel from Europe for the next 30 days in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
The president also said he would use executive orders to offer financial relief to individuals and small businesses impacted by the fallout over the disease.
Multiple advisers to the president have indicated he is seriously considering signing an emergency declaration on Thursday in what would be the latest significant step to try to combat the fallout from the coronavirus.
“If ever there was an emergency, it’s now. We’re a week away from being Italy,” one adviser told The Hill, invoking the Italian government’s decision to largely shut down the country to stop the virus from spreading.
CNN reported that top economic adviser Larry Kudlow informed congressional Republicans that Trump could sign the declaration as early as Thursday afternoon.
Trump may be hesitant to declare a national emergency after spending the past several weeks downplaying the severity of the coronavirus. He predicted in late February that the number of cases could quickly drop to near zero, and told a conservative conference that the administration deserved an “A+++” for its work containing the disease.
But as new cases are reported each day, Trump has been forced to adopt more serious measures, such as those laid out in his Wednesday night address.
Top health officials in the Trump administration said the decision to restrict travel from Europe would be beneficial, but have warned in recent days that the worst of the virus was yet to come. Still, Trump on Thursday projected optimism.
“We’re in great shape compared to other places,” he said. “We want to keep it that way.”
Updated at 12:30 p.m.
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