President Trump Friday declared the coronavirus outbreak in the United States a national emergency. The designation lets the federal government provide funding to state and local governments working to deter the spread of COVID-19 and also allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate the national response to the pandemic.
"To unleash the full power of the federal government in this effort, today I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” President Trump said in a press conference from the White House Rose Garden. “The action I am taking will open up access to up to $50 billion” to help states and territories fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Declaring a national emergency gives FEMA the power to take action during “national catastrophes.” In this case, the declaration will allow FEMA access to the billions in the Disaster Relief Fund to help the nation respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. That could come in the form of additional response teams, medical equipment or additional testing, among other possibilities.
The administration also said it would take several additional steps to address the outbreak. Those include:
- Waiving the requirement of a 3-day hospital stay prior to admission to a nursing home;
- Waiving restrictions on the use of telehealth procedures to address possible COVID-19 cases;
- Waiving federal licensing requirements that may prevent doctors from treating people in other states.