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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The White House had to walk back three policy announcements from President Trump's Oval Office announcement Wednesday that are causing more confusion than comfort during the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: COVID-19 is already here in the U.S., and in some communities, it's spreading rapidly. Trump's travel restrictions won't stop the infection in states where person-to-person spread is rampant.

1) Europe travel ban: Trump said Americans will be exempt "who have undergone appropriate screenings."

  • His words caused people in Europe to buy tickets at premium prices back to the U.S. in a panic, per the Washington Post.
  • But it will only apply to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen region of Europe within 14 days of arrival in the U.S. It does not apply to permanent U.S. residents, citizens or immediate family of citizens, per the Department of Homeland Security.

2) Health insurers: "Have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments," Trump said.

  • But insurers have agreed to wave copayments for testing, not treatment.

3) Trade: The White House walked back Trump's statement that the travel restrictions "apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval."

The big picture: Although Trump spent extra time making sure businesses knew he'd ease economic uncertainty, stocks fell more than 8% on Thursday morning and halted briefly for the second time this week.

  • What to watch: More mayors and governors are handling outbreaks by limiting mass gatherings of a certain size. In Seattle, that's no more than 250 people. In San Francisco and Washington, D.C., it's no more than 1,000.

Go deeper

Bill Gates faces scrutiny over relationship with Microsoft employee, Epstein ties

Photo: Alessandro Di Ciommo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Representatives for Bill Gates pushed back on claims Sunday that he left Microsoft's board because of an earlier sexual relationship and against two other reports detailing more extensive ties with Jeffrey Epstein than had previously been reported.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in an emailed statement to Axios that it "received a concern" in 2019 that its co-founder "sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000," but denied a Wall Street Journal report that its board members thought Gates should resign over the matter.

AT&T in talks with Discovery to combine media assets

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AT&T is in talks with media giant Discovery about merging its media assets, like CNN, TBS and TNT, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: A potential merger could allow AT&T and Discovery to better compete with entertainment giants like Disney and Netflix in the video streaming wars.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Franklin Graham worries Trump too old to run in 2024

Graham and Trump at a rally in 2017. Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Rev. Franklin Graham says a potential 2024 presidential bid by Donald Trump would "be a very tough thing to do," the prominent Christian leader told "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, was among Trump's earliest and most prominent evangelical defenders.