back to article Coronavirus pandemic latest: Trump declares 'two very big words' – national emergency – and unexpectedly ropes in Google to help in some form

In a Friday press conference, US President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus... with the help of Google, which was news to Google. "To unleash the full power of the federal government, today I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said during …

  1. Palpy

    Hmmm. This will be interesting.

    # At least one news outlet has indeed contacted Google about the website Trump mentioned, and they report that Trump's lying. Google is not building any such national clearinghouse for COVID-19 testing. As El Reg reports, another company is in the first stages of putting together a website, but only for the San Francisco area.

    # I suspect the House has Trump over a barrel on the relief bill: it will look terrible if the President vetoes a bill offering emergency assistance to Americans during a national emergency, so he has to sign to avoid tremendously bad optics. Of course the bill goes nowhere near his desk unless the Senate acts, and last I heard they were being real a**holes -- trying to use the emergency to shoehorn in anti-abortion language and so forth.

    If Roche can get their analytical machine into the field quickly, the US can begin to target resources more effectively. I heard the virus' spreading characteristics described as "irruptive and chaotic", meaning the spread cannot be easily forecast using theoretical analysis. Weird shit happens: while the average COVID-19 patient infects two other people, one "super spreader" can pass the virus to dozens or even hundreds of people. That means the infections can mount unpredictably, and act differently depending on quirky factors.

    All that means that real-time, on-the-ground data is necessary to manage this epidemic.

    Sobering: Around Feb 26 Italy had 322 known infections; a week later 2502; a week after that, 10149. Now they have 17660 and, as we've all read, doctors are having to triage patients -- they allocate all the ventilators they have to the patients most likely to recover, and the patients who are very elderly or badly compromised have to be left to die. Ugly situation.

    Watch what happens in California. It's about the same size and very roughly the same population as Italy. Tested and confirmed cases in California stand at 247 as of March 13. (Yes, we know testing in California was, and remains, inadequate. Hopefully that will change.)

    1. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting.

      The other company' is Verily, which is an Alphabet company, which serves the hospital market, which developed the software for health care workers to assess their own risk, which is not even ready for their alpha test, and which doesn't have close to 1,700 developers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting.

      "If Roche can get their analytical machine into the field quickly,...

      Since it's my professional field, I have to call BS here... I've seen the press conference, and it was presented like there were no tests, and due to the excellent quick work of his (US) people and FDA, now he/ tests are ready to roll. GI Joe saves the world again. Which is rubbish. Yes, the Roche testing is now approved, but the Qiagen kit and protocol was already there. For ages... Must have been that it was by "bad Europeans", backed by those silly buggers of WHO that it wasn't rolled out. Likes the Swiss more I suppose...

      Oh, and CDC already had the testing protocols since the beginning of February. So no reason for delay there...

      I'm getting too old for this orange self centred counterproductive ego polishing by those not hindered by any knowledge...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting.

        Just had a convo with a friend working in US healthcare on the insurance billing side of a large network of urgent care facilities. I'd mentioned that (as I understood) lack of testing was a lack of infrastructure and capability. Was told that most pharma companies currently have ability, they're just on hold, fighting about *pricing* because (as I understood their comment) the companies wanted to maximize profit, but not set too high of a billing cost for non-covered "customers" (i.e. cost to un-/underinsured) then get undercut and look like they're gouging. Sort of wait-and-see what the competition is doing before commiting. Feckin' disgusting.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting.

          I'm afraid it's more complicated than that, and that there are more things at play than what you mention. Like I wrote, I'm afraid it has little to do with "availability" and "the hardware" of testing. I must admit I'm not part of the price discussions with the biotech (not necessarily "pharma") companies beyond our own. What I do know is that kit prices of £ 245 (non bulk) are not outside normal IVD PCR kit price ranges. And as I mentioned, the Qiagen/ Roche/ ThermoFisher procedures have been available, evaluated, and generally accepted (e.g. WHO) months before the "excellent work of our people".

          With that, I don't think the pricing discussion argument you mention is the cause here. As for the "non-covered customers", I can't judge there, since where I live/ work, we have a 100% population inclusive national health service.

          What I think is important to consider here is that the current US events are the result of political strategy and decisions. In addition, like I mentioned, tests were available, but they were not approved (FDA, see Diagnostics section), there has been no urgency to change this, and reaction to quickly changing events has been predetermined, and some might say questionable with other goals in mind. Meanwhile, others need to clear up the mess...

          1. Palpy

            Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting, test kits

            As mentioned, the COVID-19 testing situation in the USA is complicated. Past policies -- cuts in the very programs and personnel meant to handle epidemics and pandemics, lax rollout of best-of-class medical technologies, and so forth; price of the kits and lack of universal coverage in the USA; and availability of working kits.

            This just in: "California had the capacity to conduct 8,227 tests as of Thursday, [Governor Gavin] Newsom said in a press conference. But many of the testing kits provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were missing the key components to conducts the analyses."

            “'The test kits do not include in every case the RNA extraction kits, the reagents, the chemicals, the solutions that are components of the broader tests,' he said. 'This is imperative that the federal government and labs across the United States, not just state of California, get the benefit of all the ingredients, the components of the test. I am surprised this is not more of the national conversation.'”

            Really? Sending out incomplete test kits still? It's a joke. A sick joke.

            1. Muscleguy Silver badge

              Re: Hmmm. This will be interesting, test kits

              Even well before, well, well before all this blew up missing components in lab kits, Qiajen, Roche etc. etc. were so common the companies had special online means of getting hold of the missing bits and stores in most big institutes and universities had spares you could just order and get that day.

              So missing components in kits is a longstanding issue with the manufacturing and packaging process. We all know how it works these days, workers harried by managers and time sheets and ‘driving costs down’ being the dominant and only baseline so they have no time to ensure everything in what I expect is both a complex and unfamiliar setup to ensure everything is there and getting boxes out the door is what gets them paid and work tomorrow.

              The companies have been running systems like that for a couple of decades now, why expect things will be different in this scenario?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has pledged to donate 500,000 COVID-19 tests and one million masks to the US, which is the equivalent of kicking in, like, twenty bucks given his net worth is roughly $40,000,000,000."

    And what's the point of that snarky comment? Has Trump, or Gates, or Bloomberg, or Koch or any other American billionaire done anything remotely equivalent?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "And what's the point of that snarky comment?"

      It's PR trolling by billionaires. It's 0.01% of his net worth. We're just playthings to them in their weird point-scoring battles.

      "We join hands with Americans in these difficult times"



      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's a years supply

        There were 1411 tests done by the CDC and public labs on the last date numbers were published (10th March). 500,000 tests is ONE YEARS supply of tests for them. CDC Itself only did 23 test that day. 23!

        It seems the number of tests is being limited because Trump thinks if they don't test, it doesn't count as Covid 19 and it will blow over like Hannity and Fox News tells him it will. And it looks like CDC has stopped publishing how few tests they are actually doing, since it hasn't been properly updated in days.

        Hannity told his, (elderly demographic), viewers that South Korea has 0.7% death rate from Covid 19, and so its like the flu death rate. It's not, he lied to them, its 34 times higher expected death rate overall, and for them, it is much much higher. They are old, Covid will kill them, he lied to them.

        So be clear Fox News viewer, Fox News thinks it's better to lie to you, than to make Trump look bad. Fox News thinks your life is worth far less than Trump's self image.

        Mar-a-Lago was visited by a Brazillian PR man last Saturday, he met with Trump did a photo shoot with him, exchanged hats. Then he went home and was tested positive for Covid 19 on Thursday after showing symptoms earlier in the week. Mar-a-Lago should be closed, disinfected, the staff allowed to be tested and quarantined.

        So, to my point. 500,000 test kits is a good gift They should donate it to the States rather than the Trump CDC, because Trump is blocking testing and he will simply block these test kits too. It would also be nice if the CDC did its job, and closed Mar a Lago and did a full contact tracing on the visitor with Covid 19, and if some test kits found there way to doctors to do tests on the Trump staff, all the better.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "And what's the point of that snarky comment?"

        I was about to donate 20 bucks, but then I realized it was less than 0.01% of my net worth and that I would be PR trolling, so I'll just abstain.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge


      Gates and Bezos are working to deliver test kits for home use in Washington state. Gates is also supporting vaccine development.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If there are any of those masks going begging...

      I'm sure the NHS would be more than happy to take them off Ma's hands. According to a senior doctor on Channel 4's Coronavirus Special tonight there's already a chronic lack of personal protective equipment available to frontline staff.

      In my naivety I was imagining that a shortage of devices like ventilators would become an issue when the COVID-19 cases really started ramping up. Instead it seems the medics will be treating patients bare handed before the end of next week. God help us!

    4. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Actually Gates and Zuck have both put in more than that.

  3. tempemeaty

    The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

    Well isn't this just dandy. We know the score though. Politicians will do what we know politicians do. Meanwhile we will just have to deal with this situation the best we know how. When the brown smelly stuff hits the the speedy circular rotating thing it always comes down to us being on our own. Gov doesn't ever really save us.

    That said, if nothing else, we can go watch our, now panicked, neighbors wiping out toilet paper and ramen stock from the super market shelves.

    I hope no one here has run out of toilet paper (I truly and sincerely mean that)

    Maybe I should just shorten the title to Toilet Paper Apocalypse.

    May Christ and God be with you all.

    1. Palpy

      Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

      Heh, good one. Out here in darkest Oregon the bears (black bears, not grizzlies, and usually quite timid) do, as the saying goes, sh*t in the woods. Us backpacking types follow their example, so the toilet paper thing is, well, it isn't really a thing at all. I've done without before and will again.

      How did I get going about that?

      I agree that politicians are bureaucrats of the first order, and respond as bureaucrats, which is to say with the speed of mollusks. And the government can't "save" us. However, government can make things better for many people. For instance, the COVID-19 test costs a bit over a thousand dollars. When the relief bill gets signed into law, that potential medical bill goes away for all Americans. And again, a young relative just got a part-time job at a restaurant. No benefits -- but the bill will pay for sick time if he contracts COVID-19. Again, a real-world benefit to real people. From the government.

      Incidentally, the underlying philosophy of most Western democracies is that governments are put in place by the people in order to ensure the welfare of the people -- to safeguard the rights of the people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not quite a quote from the American Declaration of Independence, but close. The welfare of the citizens is exactly what the governments of the USA, the UK, Germany, and the rest of the West should be looking out for.

      Cue the righteous cynicism.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

        Things have been perverted a bit. Now the government is for the benefit of the politicians and the corporates that donate money to their campaigns.

        My cynicism know no bounds at this point.

        1. Alumoi Silver badge

          Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

          I don't get the downvote. After all, politicians and corporation ARE also people.

      2. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

        Part of your problem in the states, is the fact that the health system is built around the numbers that have adequate health insurance. That leaves some 80 odd million people without any reasonable cover or possibility of any chance of testing and expectation of decent treatment in the event they contract the disease.

        Add to that the effects of epidemic contagion overwhelming a system based on helping those that can best pay, the system is looking at a very large potential problem. If the government doesn't put the welfare of the people and the means ALL of the people equally as a priority, it is looking at the potential for serious political realignment.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So wipe you're ass with dollar bills

      So wipe your ass with dollar bills. Might as well.

      Fed just created $1.5 trillion more dollars plus $500 billion more dollars a week over the next 3 weeks to buy stocks and prop-up the US stock markets.

      So that's 10 THOUSAND sheets of green butt wipe PER American ass, right there. TP problem solved!

      As to what to replace Ramen with, well you could eat the rich. $600 billion/yr of the deficit is the billionaire tax cut, so they must be really fat and juicy like a Wagyu steak by now. All those massages, and fatty foods, and relaxing, they'll be nice and tender, good marbling, delicious!

      Problem solved!

    3. FrogsAndChips

      Re: The toilet paper and ramen Apocalypse...

      It was probably an observation bias, but last weekend on the streets I couldn't help notice the large packs of bog rolls in people's shopping bags.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Situation normal in DC then.

    Trump make pronouncements uses phrases like "very important"... "big words"... "I'm not taking any blame, it's Obama's fault"... Well, he has and hasn't on the Obama blame but Trump did shut down most of CDC's budget. He's been in denial until today. So what changed? Is he afraid of losing some votes come November?

    1. Palpy

      Re: ...Is he [Trump] afraid of losing votes...?

      He's afraid of looking bad in public. Trump's entire sense of selfhood appears to depend on others seeing him as biggest, best, smartest, infallible, always right.

      Losing votes is a proxy for that -- losing votes means those people no longer see him as superior.

      If he had the self-confidence to believe in his own worth, he would not be so fragile. But, being very fallible (a career built on his father's money and six bankruptcies) and not all that smart, his subconscious is (IMHO) a swamp of insecurity and self-doubt. Well silenced by self-protection, never allowed to bubble up into the forefront of his mind, but down there like an uneasiness you can't identify or explain.

      Again, IMHO.


      Incidentally, in my first post, I wrote "watch California" -- I didn't mean like "watch them poor suckers squirm". I meant that what happens in California over the next two and a half weeks can be compared to what happened in Italy starting at the end of February, and that might give us some ideas about how COVID-19 will spread in the western USA. Different culture, different transportation regime, different urban-rural landscape, etc.

    2. FrogsAndChips

      Re: Situation normal in DC then.

      "Leadership: Whatever happens, you're responsible. If it doesn't happen, you're responsible."

      Donald J. Trump, November 2013

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Trumps Legacy

    Just as the Affordable Care Act became Obama Care, I think it would be poetic justice if Covid-19 became Trump Flu.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No problem, says the orange one.

    Ever noticed how stuff that's wrong is never, ever Trump's fault? Always, but always, due to the previous administration, different circumstances, incompetent henchmen, the "fake news", in fact HE is the only current shining light in all this turmoil - or so he says. The bestest president there's ever been (NOT). In reality the ignorant buffoon is a danger to all humanity and the sooner he goes, the better.

  7. monty75

    "We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for COVID-19 testing."

    "Dr Deborah Birks, White House coronavirus response coordinator, presented a chart indicating that the alleged website will allow people to log-in through some undisclosed mechanism and check their symptoms."

    All of which sounds an awful lot like the one the NHS has been running for weeks now. I bet they managed with considerably fewer than 1700 devs.

  8. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Silicon Valley meal break apocalypse

    Many companies cater meals because there's no way for 3 million people to walk into a restaurant at the same time. Now that whole system is broken with offices requiring people to work from home. Supermarkets are empty and I imagine the catering companies are kissing a month of revenue goodbye.

  9. the Kris

    Trump recently said ...

    We have a total of 15 people and they're in a process of recovering with some already having fully recovered. Hopefully we're not gonna have to spend so much because we really think we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum. But we've had tremendous success tremendous success beyond what and we want to keep it that way so we're at the low level. As they get better we take them off the list so that we're going to be pretty soon at only 5 people and we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought being US citizen or resident made you immune to COVID?

    Seeing as, you know, last week's travel ban explicitly excluded US citizens and their families as well as green-card holders.

    I'll get my coat.

    On a more serious note, if anyone still had any doubt regarding that the current policy of the US Senate is "if proposal.origin == 'Democrats': deny()", McConnell has just made it perfectly clear.

  11. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    To stop airborne infectious disease

    EVERYBODY masks up--the whole population. Then the most contagious (who have at least a 50% chance of being asymptomatic) exhale bugs---into their masks. This is how Japan stopped SARS.

    What is more interesting is that this is probably NOT the best response. Unless we can wipe out this strain, it will come back next year & the next. And since it hits the old & infirm even harder than most flus, while the young might not get anything at all, you WANT most of the population to be infected. (When the mortality rate is still <1% and not approaching 25%)

    HOWEVER, our economies have taken JIT provisioning WAY beyond what is rational. If a million were to be sick at once, it would strain our systems to the limit. If 10 million, we would probably be in serious trouble. What you want is a relatively slow, but still quite thorough, spread through the population.

    What you don't want is panic--like what happens when you tell everyone to go buy toilet paper.

    What you don't want is to use the US constitution for toilet paper (dollars? meh.)

    It would be a lot easier to trust the flu industrial complex if they had not changed the definitions of epidemic pandemic in 2009 to include what was one of the lowest death rates we had ever documented. If they did not lump the flu in with other causes of death so that we cannot know what the actual death rate from the flu is. And if they did not hype every flu season as the harbinger to the Spanish flu.

    And of course, you don't want the House larding an emergency spending bill. <snark>Because of course we Republicans have NEVER done such a thing.</snark>


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: To stop airborne infectious disease

      What you don't want is to use the US constitution for toilet paper (dollars? meh.)

      Ah well, every culture their own priorities. Then again, if I see people walking around with 6 packs of bog rolls, I'm some how not as anxious as seeing people queueing in the US in front of these stores.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: To stop airborne infectious disease

        So--you're a criminal? Or do you assume that everyone else is one?

  12. Wobbly World

    Economic clearout...

    It's a economic clearout of ederly, sick, and those that can't afford to stockup and not starve....End game no hole in pension pot, plenty of margin in NHS, health care, clear care homes, reduce the number of homeless etc.

    Shame on the governments of the world and the way they are dealing with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic!!!

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