President Trump addressed the nation Wednesday evening, walking back comments he has previously made and unveiling sweeping measures to address the coronavirus threat.
A somber and subdued Trump began by highlighting the World Health Organization’s recent classification of the virus as a global pandemic, pointing out that from the beginning of time nations have faced health threats. The President then said “it only matters how you respond, and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.”
Trump then outlined a number of measures that have been taken, as well as those that will now be taken, some of which will have profound impacts on a wide range of industries. Most significantly, the U.S. will suspend all travel from Europe for the next 30 days. These restrictions go into effect Friday at midnight.
“These prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval,” said Trump. “Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”
Trump also said travel restrictions on China and South Korea would be evaluated as those countries get the virus under control. In addition, health insurers have agreed to waive copayments for coronavirus treatment, extend insurance treatment to cover the virus and reduce surprise billing issues.
The President highlighted the $8.3 billion package signed into law last week to help agencies combat the virus. He also said testing capabilities are expanding rapidly.
“The vast majority of Americans—the risk is very, very low,” Trump continued. “Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus. The highest risk is for [the] elderly population with underlying health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful. In particular, we are strongly advising that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits. In general, older Americans should avoid non-essential travel and crowded areas….Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.”
After highlighting basic hygiene rules that should be followed, the President said those who are sick should stay home. To help ensure they can stay home without financial hardship, Trump said he will soon be taking emergency action to provide financial relief for “workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus.”
Trump also said he was authorizing the Small Business Administration to provide loans in impacted areas, and will be asking Congress to provide an additional $50 billion in funding for the program. The President is also using emergency authority to instruct the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without penalties or fees, for those impacted, providing “more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy. Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief.”
Overall the address was a substantial change of tone for the President and illustrates the risk the coronavirus poses to world. Throughout the address, Trump tried to reassure viewers that “this is just a temporary moment of time, that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world,” while at the same time acknowledging “we are at a critical time in the fight against the virus.”