Despite previously claiming that he didn’t believe the spread of the virus was “inevitable,” that “like a miracle, it will disappear,” and that people could get better by “going to work,” President Donald Trump announced that the United States would suspend incoming travel from Europe—except for U.S. citizens and residents, and their family members—for the next 30 days, beginning Friday at midnight. [Update, March 11, 2020, at 11:35 p.m.: After the speech, in a flurry of retracting or revising the remarks the president had delivered from a script, the White House specified that the restriction only “applies to foreign nationals who have been in 26 European countries with open borders agreements, in the last 14 days.”]
Noticeably struggling to read from the teleprompter throughout his remarks, Trump announced that the European restrictions “will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo but various other things” and that they would cover “anything coming from Europe to the United States”—causing the White House to tell reporters afterward that he had spoken incorrectly and that there were in fact no plans to ban cargo. He also announced that health insurance companies have agreed to extend coverage to include coronavirus treatment and to waive all coronavirus-related copayments. [Update, March 11, 2020, at 10:40 p.m.: The insurance industry is reportedly disputing Trump’s claim that insurers will waive copayments for coronavirus treatment.] And to ease pressure on affected businesses, the Small Business Administration is being authorized to issue $50 billion in loans.
The shutdown of travel from Europe marked Trump’s most drastic move yet, though it comes after he’d already barred foreign nationals who recently visited China from entering the country. There was, however, one curious exception to Trump’s new travel ban: the United Kingdom. Why the U.K. would be exempt when the most recent reports cited 460 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (including the country’s own health minister) was not explained, though the fact that the speech was partially written by one of the White House’s most virulent racists perhaps offers a clue.
As his roughly 10-minute speech came to a close, Trump made a bold, final claim: “The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared, or more resilient, than the United States.” In actuality, the United States has performed a mere five coronavirus tests per million people compared with South Korea’s 3,692 tests per million.
The broad claim was likely part of an effort to soothe an increasingly panicked economy. It did not work:
Despite his repeated focus on the “foreign virus” and his reassurance that no one (except the Brits) would be getting in, Trump failed to mention anything about efforts to slow the exponentially increasing number of infected people here on American soil.
Before the address, an accidentally live mic caught Trump muttering “Ah, fuck.”
And past the end of his theatrical remarks, when he was told it was over but while the camera was still rolling, he gave off a theatrical whoop of relief:
The first sentiment seemed far more apt.