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Trump just proved he's finally taking coronavirus seriously. But how much will this late start cost us?

Democrats now need to swallow their pride, hard as that might seem, and start working toward a solution alongside their Republican peers

Jay Caruso
Washington DC
Friday 13 March 2020 22:32 GMT
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Donald Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus pandemic

Covid-19, more commonly known in everyday conversation as coronavirus, has managed to turn the world upside-down in a matter of weeks. More importantly, President Donald Trump finally seems to grasp the gravity of the situation.

When the pandemic first began making headlines, Trump's defenders weren't so much digging in for the president as they were attacking his critics, claiming they were attempting to hurt him politically. It seems absurd that he and his administration were looking at Covid-19 through a political lens, rather than as a healthcare issue, but that’s the way it was.

Trump did try to downplay the severity of the situation early on, to put it lightly. In a February 26 news conference, he said the number of infected people in the United States was "going very substantially down, not up." He also boasted of the 15 confirmed cases at the time, saying, "The 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero." It is two weeks later, and the latest update from the CDC shows 1,629 confirmed cases and 41 deaths in the United States.

Some Trump supporters then claimed the press was attempting to spread panic as a means of making Trump look bad. Yes, the people hoarding hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bottled water, and pasta are panicking and doing their neighbors a disservice. Still, the threat of Covid-19 is real, and taking precautionary steps is necessary to stop it from spreading. It would be remiss of any media outlet not to report on the actual numbers and possibilities.

While the president gave an Oval Office address two nights ago, he didn't appear comfortable. He bungled some of the steps the administration was taking, forcing the White House to issue corrections minutes after the address completed.

Remarks Trump gave in the Rose Garden at the White House today prove something has changed. For someone who just two weeks ago attempted to wave off Covid-19 as no big deal, Trump came prepared to show he meant business — finally.

The president said he would declare a national emergency, which will free up $50 billion in funds and expedite the disbursal to states and localities to help fight the pandemic. He also said he was giving his Health and Human Services Secretary the authority to waive some regulations to better deal with the virus. Trump enlisted the private sector, including LabCorp, Google, CVS, and Walmart, to assist with the creation of testing and procedures.

Testing is the one area where the United States is way behind other nations, and it's the most criticized aspect of the administration's response. In the Rose Garden, the president promised that 1.4 million tests would be available by next week and a total of 5 million within the next month.

The question now is how much the late start will mitigate the damage. The social distancing procedures put in place seem drastic, but experts say one of the best ways to minimize the spread of the virus is via what is essentially a reverse quarantine. Limiting visits to nursing homes, canceling concerts and sporting events (including suspending entire professional sports seasons), and calling off other events where large crowds gather minimizes exposure.

The stock market took kindly to Trump's announcements this afternoon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) finished up nearly 2,000 points a day after the single most significant percentage drop since the infamous Black Monday on October 19, 1987.

The president must now show leadership in dealing with the House on a bill designed to assist with the Covid-19 outbreak. President Trump wants a payroll tax cut as part of any legislative package, but House Democrats have resisted so far. The president (and in fairness, Nancy Pelosi) cannot treat the legislation as any other political fight. People's lives hang in the balance, and the nation, as always, will turn to the commander-in-chief in a time of crisis. Whether Trump wants to put aside petty politics — even if Democrats do not — is entirely up to him.

Jay Caruso is the managing editor of the Washington Examiner

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