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COVID-19

“State of emergency” isn’t as alarming as it sounds

Jack Stewart Mar 6, 2020
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about COVID-19 at the California Department of Public Health on Feb. 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

“State of emergency” isn’t as alarming as it sounds

Jack Stewart Mar 6, 2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks about COVID-19 at the California Department of Public Health on Feb. 27, 2020 in Sacramento, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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COPY

California, Florida and Washington have all declared states of emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak. That means different things in different states, but officials are stressing that although an emergency may sound alarming, the purpose of the declarations is to help get people and money to the frontlines as quickly as possible. 

Cities, counties and states declare emergencies on a fairly regular basis for disasters like bad storms, fires and floods. 

“Really, all it means is that the government entity declaring the state of emergency can waive regulations, and then seek resources from a higher level of government,” said Christopher Douglas, associate professor of economics at the University of Michigan-Flint.

In California this week, Governor Gavin Newsom explained it also gives him power to curb things like unfair price hikes. 

“We need to go after those that are price gouging not just for hand sanitizer, but for medical supplies and other equipment,” Newsom said.

Andy Baker-White, senior director of State Health Policy at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said what a state of emergency doesn’t mean is that people have to worry. 

“I think that they should be reassured that the jurisdiction where they’re living is doing everything it can to respond to the coronavirus,” he said.

That could mean the freedom to bring in out-of-state medical staff, to use state property like fairgrounds in emergencies and to buy medical supplies with less red tape.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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