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President Donald Trump Friday declared a national emergency in an effort to help combat the spread of coronavirus, after a rapid increase of cases, mass gathering restrictions, and event cancellations. Trump said that the declaration will “unleash the full power of the federal government” and allow Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to “waive provisions of applicable laws and regulations to give doctors, hospitals —all hospitals — and health care providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus.”
He also emphasized that this will free up to $50 billion in federal funds, which he described as “a large amount of money for states and territories and localities in our shared fight against this disease.”
So far, in the United States there are at least 2,000 confirmed cases and 50 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) last Wednesday officially labeled the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, WHO Director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warning, “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector.”
Multiple states have taken action to fight against the coronavirus, including New York which has banned mass gatherings of more than 500 people.
At the White House Rose Garden, Trump further announced that he has been in talks with pharmacies and retailers to set up drive-through testing in critical areas, which would enable individuals “to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave [their] car.”
Retailers such as Target and Walmart are offering their parking lots for drive-through testing locations, while LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics and Roche said they were increasing the speed of test kit production. With these measures, Trump expects that “up to a half-million additional tests will be available early next week.”
Notably, Trump added that he was working with Google to develop a website, which, he said, can “determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
Today on the Fox and Friends television program, Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the hosts that it “took the president’s leadership to bring together the private industry.”
“You have competitors, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart all coming together saying we will agree to use part of our parking lots to allow for these drive-through testings,” Verma remarked and commented that all the testing companies are doing everything in their power to process tests quickly.
During the interview, Verma also praised Google for working with the government to create an effective testing website for the public.
However, it is important to be aware that the website Verma and Trump referred to is actually being developed by Verily, a different division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., and although Trump insisted that the website would be ready soon at a nationwide level, Verily published a tweet to correct this:
“We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”
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