President Donald Trump declared a national emergency Friday in an attempt to thwart the new coronavirus pandemic in the US

Taking the action, Trump said, will allow him to "unleash the full power of the federal government,” including freeing up to $50 billion to assist state and local efforts. 

"I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big word," Trump told reporters in the White house. 

The president is allowing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to waive legal provisions to free up doctors, hospital and healthcare providers as they seek to combat the virus on the ground. And he further waived interest on federally-held student loans in an effort to free up individual funds.

There are over 1,600 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, including 41 deaths, according to the latest available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That number is likely short of the real total with testing currently stymied by a lack of test kits. 

Trump said his administration is now entering into a new partnership with private firms to make up for the shortfall, and said that up to half a million tests would be brought online by "early next week."

"We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly and conveniently," Trump said while addressing reporters in the Rose Garden. 

The president dismissed any responsibility for the existing shortage, saying "I don’t take responsibility at all."

The new testing measures will include drive-thru tests that will allow people who exhibit known COVID-19 symptoms to be evaluated at locations around the country without having to leave their cars. 

Talks are ongoing with pharmacies and retailers in order to establish the testing areas, Trump said.