President Donald J. Trump said he’s using the Stafford Act to declare a major disaster response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I worked very closely with Governor Cuomo, and this is the first time in our nation’s history that a president used the Stafford Act to declare a major disaster response to a public health crisis,” he said during Saturday’s White House coronavirus task force press briefing. “Never happened before. I’m considering other areas where we may or may not be doing that.”
The Stafford Act, which was passed in 1988, is designed to deliver assistance to state and local governments during a time of disaster. The law lets the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assist state and local governments during natural catastrophes.
The president can choose to use the Stafford Act when a state governor or local leader determines that damage from a “major disaster” exceeds state or local resources, according to FEMA’s website. Only the president has the power to declare it.
In a March 13 letter, Trump said he was declaring the Stafford Act “based on the fact that our entire country is now facing a significant public health emergency.”
In an example of how the private sector is stepping up, President Trump explained how one clothing manufacturer has been helping craft medical supplies.
“By way of example, Hanes, great consumer cotton products company, is retrofitting its manufacturing capabilities and large sections of their plants to produce masks,” he said.
Both Vice President Mike Pence and top health official Dr. Anthony Fauci have also encouraged citizens who don’t show symptoms not to get tested, as it consumes resources needed by those fighting the virus.
Dr. Ben Carson also announced the cessation of foreclosures and evictions, a move which will cover millions of homeowners nationwide.
Meanwhile, President Trump has urged the FDA to fast track a potential cure for COVID-19. On Twitter, the president highlighted two drugs, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, that when taken together may help ease symptoms of the illness.
Hydroxychloroquine is currently being used to prevent malaria, while azithromycin serves as an antibiotic.
He noted they could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” The president went on to thank the FDA for “moving mountains” after they approved the anti-malarial for “compassionate use” on patients in dire need of treatment.