Updated Mar 12, 2020 - Health

Trump suspends European travel to U.S. due to coronavirus

President Trump announced in an Oval Office address Wednesday that European travel to the U.S. will be restricted for 30 days, with exemptions for Americans who undergo screening upon their return.

The big picture: The U.S. now has more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus, with the likelihood that there are far more unknown cases due to major delays in testing.

  • The travel restrictions affect member states of the Schengen Area, which includes most but not all of the EU. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not in the Schengen Zone and are not affected by the restrictions.
  • The State Department issued a global level 3 health advisory late Wednesday advising Americans to "reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19."

Trump took pains to blame others during his address for the virus taking root in the U.S., calling it a "foreign virus" and noting it started in China.

  • He said the U.S. has been doing better than Europe and that the EU “failed” to do enough soon enough. The case and death count have been surging in Italy, which has put the entire country under lockdown.

Trump also announced plans for an economic stimulus package, including:

  • Low-interest loans for small businesses via the Small Business Administration.
  • Deferring tax payments for affected businesses and individuals via the Treasury Department.
  • Calling on Congress to cut payroll taxes.

Between the lines: A lot of the most ambitious asks from Trump rely on Congress for approval, notes Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • This will provide him cover if things go haywire — he can say he asked for significant action but Congress prevented it from becoming a reality.

Behind the scenes: These options were considered in the taskforce Tuesday and presented to the president Wednesday, a senior administration official told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

  • The source said multiple senior health officials in the administration supported the travel ban from Europe given the recent spikes, especially in Italy.
  • Swan asked whether Trump had second thoughts about the economic effects of this.
  • “All of us do,” the official said. “Of course. But it’s a matter of what’s best in the long term.”

Of note: Financial markets reacted negatively to the news. Pre-market trading pointed to an ugly stock market open that would push the S&P 500 into bear market territory, per Axios' Courtenay Brown.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Trump in a statement for not addressing a "lack of coronavirus testing kits throughout the United States." 
  • The Democrats announced they would introduce the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Thursday, which they said would include "free coronavirus testing, paid emergency leave for workers, food security assistance, help to states overburdened by Medicaid costs, and strengthened Unemployment Insurance."

The bottom line: "This is not a financial crisis," Trump said. "This is just a temporary moment of time."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the State Department and Democrats' statements and the markets' reaction.

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