President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump declares coronavirus pandemic a national emergency; Pelosi announces aid deal

President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency in order to free up more money and resources. But he denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available for the new virus, whose spread has roiled markets and disrupted the lives of everyday Americans.

Speaking from the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency,” unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as his administration has come under fire for being too slow in making the test available.

Trump said, “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the slow rollout of testing.

Late Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a deal with the Trump administration for an aid package from Congress that aims at direct relief to Americans — free testing, two weeks of sick pay for workers, enhanced unemployment benefits and bolstered food programs.

“We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” Pelosi announced in a letter to colleagues after days of negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The House was poised to vote late Friday.

Trump tweeted his approval. “I fully support H.R. 6201: Families First CoronaVirus Response Act,” Trump wrote.

“I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!” He added, “Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

The crush of late-day activity capped a tumultuous week in Washington as the fast-moving virus shuttered the capital’s power centers, roiled financial markets and left ordinary Americans suddenly navigating self-quarantines, school closures and a changed way of life.

The White House was under enormous pressure, dealing with the crisis on multiple fronts as it encroached ever closer on the president.

Trump has been known to flout public health advice — eagerly shaking hands during the more than hour-long afternoon event — but acknowledged he “most likely” will be tested now after having been in contact with several officials who have tested positive for the virus. “Fairly soon,” he said.

Still, Trump said officials don’t want people taking the test unless they have certain symptoms. “We don’t want people without symptoms to go and do that test,” Trump said, adding, “It’s totally unnecessary.”

Additionally, Trump took a number of other actions to bolster energy markets, ease the financial burden for Americans with student loans and give medical professionals additional “flexibility” in treating patients during the public health crisis.

Author: AP
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