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Week In Politics: Trump Declares National Emergency


As anxiety about coronavirus intensifies, President Trump tried again yesterday to reassure Americans that the government is doing everything in its power to control the outbreak.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This will pass. This will pass through, and we're going to be even stronger for it. We've learned a lot.

MONTAGNE: Speaking at the White House, he declared a national emergency, which will help get federal funds and medical care to states and cities that need it.

NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is with us now for more. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: President Trump spoke for more than an hour yesterday in the Rose Garden. What was his core message?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, his message was that this is a new reality, or recognition of that. The national emergency declaration would open up access to $50 billion for states and cities to fight the virus. And Trump says that doctors and hospitals will get more resources and flexibility to respond.

MONTAGNE: Trump said more widespread testing is coming as well. He'd been criticized for not doing that sooner. So what's his plan?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. Trump says they're working on this with the private sector to make testing easier. Though it's not really clear how far along the plan is, the White House said Google was a big part of it.


TRUMP: I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It's going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.

ORDOÑEZ: But there is a statement out from an associated company called Verily. They say this is in the early stages and will be testing the tool just in the Bay Area for now. So we really need more details about this.

MONTAGNE: You know, the president also said he might get tested himself after saying he would not. So what do we know about that?

ORDOÑEZ: Right. He had dinner with the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, last weekend. An aide to Bolsonaro who joined them at the table later tested positive for the virus. And I should be clear that Bolsonaro said he is fine and tested negative. But Trump has been saying he didn't need to be tested. And he struck a little bit of a different note yesterday.


TRUMP: Well, I didn't say I wasn't going to be tested.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you going to be?

TRUMP: Most likely, yeah. Mostly likely.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When do you think that'll happen?

TRUMP: Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you let us know the results?

TRUMP: Fairly soon. We're working on that. We're working out a schedule.

ORDOÑEZ: The president's doctor said later - issued a statement saying the president's interactions were low, per CDC guidelines, and there's no indication that there's a home quarantine needed at this time.

MONTAGNE: Of course, Americans are really starting to feel some major disruptions - school, work, other events. Is the president's messaging on the coronavirus changing as well?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes and no. After weeks of downplaying the crisis, this is very significant to declare a national emergency. But a lot has changed in the last few days. Sports leagues are suspending their seasons. Schools are closing. But, you know, as we heard earlier, Trump is still trying to paint a rosy picture of the situation.

MONTAGNE: And over on Capitol Hill, the House passed another relief bill in the wee hours of this morning. What can Americans in affected areas expect to see?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. The House bill includes two weeks of paid sick leave, nutrition assistance and financial help for states with Medicaid. Trump says he'll sign it. And as for the emergency declaration, the president can act quickly, but states do need to request assistance. The president is encouraging governors to do so.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Franco Ordoñez, thank you so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.