President Donald Trump was considering a national disaster declaration and new travel advisories while Congress unveiled a coronavirus aid package as Washington raced Wednesday to confront the outbreak that’s moving dramatically across the country and disrupting the daily lives of Americans.
After days of trying to downplay the threat, Trump announced he would be delivering a prime-time Oval Office address to the nation Wednesday at 9 p.m. on the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The swiftly mounting effort to contain the outbreak and financial fallout intensified on a grueling day as the number of confirmed cases of the infection topped 1,000 in the U.S. and the World Health Organization declared that the global crisis is now a pandemic. Communities nationwide canceled public events in the hopes of halting the spread of the infection.
Testifying on Capitol Hill, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that the outbreak in the U.S. is going to get worse.
“I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now,” Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Facing questions from lawmakers, Fauci explained, “It is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.” The hearing was abruptly paused as he and other high-level officials rushed back to the White House for meetings.
After days of mixed signals and partisan differences, Washington considered action.
“I am fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!” Trump tweeted before a meeting with bankers in which he assured that “we are going to get the problem solved.”
“Now we’re hitting a patch and we’re going to have to do something with respect to getting rid of this virus as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” he said.
Among other measures, officials were considering placing a “Level 3 Health Travel Notice” on the entire European Union. Such a notice would recommend that Americans avoid nonessential travel to the region and quarantine themselves for 14 days after returning home.
“As you know, we have another part of the world, Europe, that is in very tough shape, having a hard time right now with the virus,” Trump said during a meeting with bankers to discuss how the financial services industry can help consumers and small businesses affected by the outbreak.
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