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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

36 mins ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

2 hours ago - World

Saudi Arabia and Qatar near deal to end standoff, sources say

Qatar's prime minister (R) attends the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a deal to end the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf following U.S.-mediated reconciliation talks this week, sources familiar with the talks tell me.

Why it matters: Restoring relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar would bring a sense of stability back to the Gulf after a 3.5 year standoff. It could also notch a last-minute achievement for the Trump administration before Jan. 20.

House passes bill to decriminalize marijuana

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a longtime marijuana legalization advocate and co-sponsor of the bill. Photo: Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House on Friday voted 228-164 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, marking the first time a congressional chamber has voted in favor of decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level.

Why it matters: The Washington Post describes the bill as a "landmark retreat in the nation’s decades-long war on drugs," which has disproportionately affected people of color.