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Trump Bans Travel From Europe

In an unprecedented action, all travel from Europe to the U.S. will be suspended for the next 30 days, President Trump announced in an address to the nation from the Oval Office on Wednesday night.

Citing the “sweeping travel restrictions on China” imposed by the U.S. during the earliest stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the president seemed to chastise Europe for not making the same decision sooner.

After “taking early and intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than… in Europe,” he said. “After consulting with the top government health professionals, we have decided to take strong, but necessary actions.”

To that end, the president announced that the new restrictions on travel from Europe would take effect on Friday at 12 a.m. He added that there will be “exemptions for Americans that have undergone appropriate screenings,” and that these rules do not apply to travel from the United Kingdom.

The president also added that officials will continue to monitor China and South Korea and suggested that travel restrictions on these countries would be reevaluated “as the situation improves.”

In addition, the president announced an economic part to this plan: that he was instructing the Small Business Administration to “exercise authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus,” and that they will begin providing loans in affected states and territories.

The president also said he will be asking Congress to increase funding for the program by an additional $50 billion, and to “defer tax payments for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.” This will “provide more than $200 billion in additional liquidity,” he added.

Trump encouraged Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief, which was discussed in briefings earlier this week.

The president discussed the health industry’s role in this: namely that the health insurance industry has agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments. He added the U.S. will be “cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time.”

Shortly after the Oval Office speech, the NBA announced it was halting its season. In a statement on Twitter, the league said a Utah Jazz player had tested positive for COVID-19 and that games would be suspended “until further notice.” As media outlets discussed the president’s speech, news broke that actors Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

During his speech, Trump touched on the availability of testing, and said “testing capabilities are expanding every day.”

He added that the risk of contracting COVID-19 is “very, very low” for the vast majority of Americans, but that the elderly population should be “very, very careful,” reviewing existing guidelines, such as limiting visitors to nursing homes, and how elderly people should avoid certain forms of travel and “crowded areas.”

Trump announced that his administration had released guidance on social distancing and reducing large gatherings, perhaps referring to community mitigation strategies released by the CDC for New Rochelle, as well as Santa Clara and Seattle earlier on Wednesday.

“Follow the guidelines of local officials who are working with federal health experts,” he encouraged Americans. “They are the best.”

“If we are vigilant and can reduce the chance of infection, which we will … the virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared or resilient than the United States. We are all in this together,” the president said.

Last Updated March 12, 2020