President Donald Trump held a press conference on Wednesday, March 18 to provide an update on the Coronavirus and the measures the White House is taking to combat what he refers to as the “unseen enemy.” Among other actions, the president said he is invoking the 1950s Korean War Era Defense Production Act.
“It can do a lot of good things if we need it,” Trump promised. “We’ll have it all completed, signing it in just a little while.”
By invoking the Act, the government can fund greater production in the private sector, allowing for increased manufacturing and distribution of emergency medical equipment and supplies, like the ventilators, face masks, and respirators that hospitals and health care facilities are finding more and more difficult to stock. Vice President Mike Pence said the nation has more than 10,000 ventilators and that thousands more are on the way.
The Coronavirus was first reported in China, which is why the president refers to it as the “Chinese virus” which gained more than its fair share of questions regarding racism during the conference. Defending his choice of words as a demographic name and not a racist one, Trump fielded various questions on everything from predictions to next steps in the war on the virus.
The public was warned not to panic when the infected numbers increase in the near future because the U.S. curves are not stable yet. Since more tests have been made available, there will be extra cases registered because health officials will be running four-to-five days’ worth of tests in 24-48 hours.
During the briefing, officials said the U.S. Navy will deploy a hospital ship to New York Harbor and a second ship that is currently based in San Diego, CA will be sent to the hardest hit areas. Additionally, Trump said health officials are looking at a “self-swab” test that people can do in the comfort of their homes. “It would free up a lot,” the president said, referring to resources and personnel. It would be “a much easier process than the current process that’s not very nice to do – I can tell you, because I did it. But we have a current process that’s a little bit difficult, if you haven’t done.”
On March 13, the president declared a national emergency and states across the nation went into full panic mode, shutting down businesses left and right. While Americans are essentially on lockdown, anxiety and fear take its toll as small business owners are forced to close their companies and employees are laid off for at least the next two weeks. To help combat some of these concerns and to assist the people during this financial crisis, Trump has implemented or will be applying programs of relief. Here is a brief list of some of the assistance in the works:
- The Housing Department is suspending evictions and foreclosures until the end of April.
- Health and Human Services are suspending the regulation that prohibits medical professionals from practicing in states other than where they are licensed.
- Travel to and from Canada has been restricted to necessity only, including deliveries.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the administration’s intent to send checks to each and every American.
- The travel ban has been extended to European travel including Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Worldwide there have been more than 207,000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus as of March 18 with more than 8,200 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 7,300 confirmed cases with at least 100 deaths.
Health officials say most people who contract the disease will be fine: It is the elderly and those with compromised health that need to take precautions. The pandemic measures are to protect those at risk, not cause panic.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.