Amid growing public anxiety over the novel coronavirus, President Donald trump announced an extraordinary ban on some travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days and called for a series of stimulus measures to blunt the economic side effects of the virus.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” trump declared during a prime-time address to the nation from the Oval Office Wednesday night.
The new travel restrictions will take effect Friday at midnight, but trump’s order does not ban all travel from Europe.
The trump administration is restricting travel to the U.S. by certain foreign nationals who have traveled to any of the 26 European countries identified (a list that includes Italy, Spain, France and Germany but omits others like the U.K., Ireland, Croatia and Ukraine) in the past 14 days before coming to the U.S.
Restrictions exempt U.S. citizens, permanent residents (green card holders) and foreign nationals who are immediate family members such as the spouses and children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have undergone appropriate screenings.
“We are marshaling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people,” trump said, emphasizing that the pandemic started off of U.S. shores, and specifically pinpointing China.
Globally, there are more than 126,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 4,630 deaths reported. In the U.S., there are at least 1,300 confirmed cases with 38 coronavirus-related deaths.
Even as the president sought to reassure a jittery public that “this is not the financial crisis” and is “just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world,” he called for a series of dramatic stimulus actions to prop up the American economy from the side effects of the virus.
“To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief,” the president said.
He specifically ordered the Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for certain impacted individuals and businesses and called on Congress to provide “immediate” payroll tax relief, in addition to other measures.
During his speech, trump misspoke when he said prohibitions would impact a “tremendous amount” of trade and cargo. He later clarified in a tweet that trade won’t be affected by the Europe travel ban. “The restriction stops people not goods,” he tweeted.
The president broadly sought to credit his administration’s actions thus far, making the case that the situation could have been worse — even as the administration has come under fire for a slow rollout of testing.
“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we’ll significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we’ll ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus,” trump said.
The president also reiterated the CDC’s guidelines to Americans to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus.
“Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough. Most of all, if you’re sick or not feeling well, stay home,” trump said.
He also emphasized making the effort to specifically protect older Americans by avoiding non-essential travel in crowded areas and avoiding all medically unnecessary trips to nursing homes.
The president — who has himself been guilty of politicizing the issue with his frequent mentions of “do-nothing Democrats” — closed his address with a message of unity, urging the nation to come together to overcome the threat.
“We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity. Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before,” trump said.
Following his address, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham announced the president’s events in Nevada and Colorado would be canceled “out of an abundance of caution.” trump had been set to travel to Nevada on Thursday.
A campaign event set to feature the president, scheduled for March 19 in Milwaukee, was also postponed, Tim Murtagh, the trump campaign’s communications director, announced on Twitter. The event had been announced about 24 hours earlier.
ABC News’ Will Steakin, William Mansell and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.