White House COVID-19 Update: March 20, 2020

Today City of Elkins received the below summary of measures taken against COVID-19 from the White House’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office:

Expanding Testing Accessibility

  • The FDA issued emergency approval for new commercial coronavirus tests to significantly expand testing across the country.
  • The President signed legislation that will ensure Americans are able to be tested for free (more here).
  • Admiral Brett Giroir – the Assistant Secretary for Health and head of the Public Health Service – has been appointed to coordinate coronavirus testing efforts.
  • The Administration is actively working with state and local partners and the private sector to open up drive-through testing sites.
  • The Administration is working with the private sector to develop a website that Americans can utilize to determine whether they need a test and, if so, where to get it.
  • HHS is providing funding to help accelerate the development of rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.
  • The FDA cut red tape to expand testing availability. Today, Thursday, March 19, President Donald J. Trump announced the approval of existing drugs to test a COVID-19 treatment. The FDA continues to expand its work regarding therapeutic options and has a vaccine trial underway. More here.
  • The FDA is empowering states to authorize tests developed and used by laboratories in their states. Every state laboratory is empowered to conduct testing.
  • The President signed legislation requiring more reporting from state and private labs to ensure our public health officials have the data they need to respond to this outbreak.

Strengthening Essential Medical Supplies

  • The President issued an Executive Order invoking the Defense Production Act. Under the Defense Production Act, the President has the authority to determine that certain supplies are essential for the national defense during challenges like this The President’s action allows the Administration, if it becomes necessary, to order the distribution of health and medical supplies to where they are most needed. You can find the Executive Order here.
  • The President signed a memorandum directing his Administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers (more here).
  • HHS announced it will be purchasing 500 million N95 respirators for the Strategic National Stockpile (more here).
  • The Department of Defense announced it will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to assist.
  • The President signed legislation removing restrictions that prevented manufacturers from selling industrial masks – which can readily protect healthcare workers – directly to hospitals.

Informing the Public

  • The Administration launched a website – coronavirus.gov – to keep the public informed about the outbreak.
  • The President launched a partnership with the Ad Council, media networks, and digital platforms to communicate public services announcements about the coronavirus.
  • The President announced guidelines (outlined below) for Americans to follow and do their part to stem the spread of the virus.
  • The Task Force is holding nearly daily press conferences to provide the American people with the latest information. Press conferences can be viewed here.
  • The Task Force has recommended mitigation strategies (outlined below) to heavily impacted communities, like those in New York, Washington, and California.