President Donald Trump gave a press conference on Friday afternoon to announce new measures to address the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. ― and to extensively praise a slew of corporate executives who went to the mic one by one to talk up their own companies’ efforts.
“We’re doing a great job, let me tell you,” Trump said. “These professionals behind me ― these great, incredible doctors and business people ― the best in the world and I can say that. Whether it’s retailers or labs or anything you want to say, these are the best in the world.”
Typically, the response to a nationwide health crisis would be led by the federal government. But its resources have been diminished by the Trump administration, which disbanded the White House office that prepared for pandemic threats and has repeatedly tried to defund global health programs. Trump was slow to address the coronavirus crisis, finally declaring a national emergency on Friday ― which opens up additional funding, encourages additional testing capacity and more.
But much of Trump’s press conference was devoted to the private sector response ― an emblematic move for a GOP-run government that looks to corporations and private aid to take care of public needs.
Trump noted that Google will be creating a website to put out information on the coronavirus and that health care and testing companies, including Roche International, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, will participate in the testing for the virus.
Big stores, including Walmart, CVS, Target and Walgreens, will allow drive-thru screening sites to operate in their parking lots, top executives said. It was not clear what else they would do.
Trump and other top officials threw praise at the executives throughout the press conference.
“These incredible companies will process the tests and then we will see that information,” Pence said.
The press conference started 30 minutes late, about a half-hour before the stock markets closed for the day. And it seemed to have the desired effect: After major losses in recent days, stocks went up soon after the president boosted the role of giant corporations in addressing the crisis.
Later in the press conference, Trump even urged the media to ask questions of the business leaders rather than of himself. “Ask them first,” he told one reporter.
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