Two U.S. states (Washington state and Florida) have declared a state of emergency over the new coronavirus outbreak, with more than 90,000 confirmed cases worldwide and more than 100 confirmed infections in the U.S.,media The Verge reported. The virus has been the case at a nursing facility in King County, Washington, where six people have died. Five California counties have also declared a state of emergency, and the entire country has been under a federal public health emergency since the end of January.
Declaring a state of emergency allows federal, state and local officials to quickly mobilize and activate initiatives they can use to respond to crisis situations. “They’re speeding up the response in a way that’s not unconstitutional,” said James Hodge, director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University. It makes people say that we have to isolate 100 people now, and we will do that. “
At the federal level, public health emergencies have made the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) more flexible and can help states respond to threats. If necessary, it also allows HHS to suspend or modify certain laws, such as certain parts of the HIPAA privacy rules or laws requiring the distribution of drugs only in healthcare facilities.
Mr Hodge said state and local governments were where to take action. Although the federal government has taken the first step in its response to the new coronavirus and may put people in federal quarantine for the first time in 50 years, they will not be able to sustain it. “They rely heavily on state and local authorities,” he said. “
Actions that can be taken by states may vary, but may include the ability to require people to be segregated, schools closed or banned from holding large events. State governments may let licensed medical professionals elsewhere move there, or allow health-care volunteers to handle low-level medical tasks under the supervision of doctors. A state may or may not take all or no steps;
But declaring a state of emergency is why King County, D.C., was able to quickly buy a motel to isolate COVID-19 patients. In San Diego County, California, after a state of emergency was declared, it helped increase the resources of local hospital beds, and in Solano County, it set up an operations center to facilitate screening.
Mr Hodge said that while this was not always the case, states must declare a state of emergency to use other sources of funding. “Some states may say they are sending out emergencies to capitalize on the money,” he said, “but some states may not have one to raise funds.” In New York State, for example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocated $40 million to the state Department of Health without declaring a state of emergency.
The type of state of emergency declared determines who is responsible for the crisis. Mr Hodge said emergency management experts were often put first if there was an emergency declaration. On the other hand, public health emergencies are the responsibility of the health sector. That’s what’s happening at the U.S. federal level, and that’s why HHS leaders are reacting to COVID-19. Florida also declared an emergency public health emergency.
However, not all states have laws that allow specific public health events. “For those states, this route is an emergency or a declaration of disaster,” Mr Hodge said. In these cases, he said, the general emergency declaration policy includes emergency medical situations.
Only two states have declared a state of emergency, but that could change as the outbreak of the new coronavirus continues to spread in the United States. As of this week, only a handful of people in the United States had been tested for COVID-19. As more and more states gain access to run their own tests, the scope of detection will expand. With more tests, doctors may find more cases – for example, genetic evidence suggests that the new coronavirus may have spread in Washington state for weeks without being detected.
States may analyze the risks and benefits of declaring a disaster in different ways. Hodge said some people may need more time to watch and wait because emergency declarations can hurt the economy. (Florida Gov.) DeSantis knew it would seriously damage business. Similarly, if there are unknown cases around, they must be taken seriously. “
Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is preparing for the possibility of President Donald Trump declaring a state of emergency, NBC News reported. This will complement HHS’s public health emergency statement, which will allow the agency to get more disaster support.
FEMA is not usually required for public health emergencies. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, responsibility for pandemic and disease response was shifted to HHS to improve health responseduring during a disaster under the Pandemic and Total Risk Prevention Reauthorization Act. “HHS will continue to be a leader, but FEMA may play a role in emergency management, but not in disease prevention,” he said. For example, if needed, they may be asked to help establish an isolation facility.
This will be the first real public health threat facing the Trump administration. Hodge said conflict between states and the federal government over the response to the virus had begun and was likely to continue. For example, the city of Costa Mesa, California, has filed a lawsuit to prevent the relocation of people who are in federal quarantine at military bases within the city. The federal government eventually canceled the program. Officials in San Antonio, Texas, also sued the CDC, asking them to release the quarantined.
“We’re seeing how the federal government and state governments respond,” Mr Hodge said. This will lead to some fierce legal battles. “