After increasing precautionary measures around the world in the wake of exponential rates of growth in coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump made an announcement today declaring a state of national emergency for COVID-19. He also announced a series of measures that will be taken by the United States Government to combat coronavirus.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government … I am officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said. Speaking to press from the White House Rose Garden, Trump declared national emergency in order to free up $50 billion for the government to use to help fight the pandemic in America.
Also in his announcement, Trump explained how this will help the secretary of Health and Human Services to waive specific laws and regulations to be able to contain the disease and treat people properly. According to his speech, every state is now ordered to set up emergency centers to stop the spread of the disease.
So, what is a national emergency exactly? Much like a state of emergency declared in individual states, a national state of emergency simply means that the government is changing how it’s operating, and will be tweaking certain laws, like ones mentioned above. Hospitals will be expected to accommodate more people. Disaster relief funding is provided to state governments. Legal barriers can be worked around in order to provide aid to those in need. Essentially, a national state of emergency creates access to emergency funds that have been put aside by the government for this very kind of situation.
Limits on the length of hospital stays will also be lifted and there will be great numbers of beds made available to people who need it. And, there are also plans for “drive-thru” virus tests in the works, with 1.4 million new tests for coronavirus that should be available by next week, and 5 million available in the next month.
Thanks to the drive-thru testing that will become available, people who think they might be infected with coronavirus will be able to fill out a questionnaire on Google to check if they have any symptoms and are at risk. If they are, they’ll be directed to special testing centers which will deliver the tests to automated machines, which will produce results within 24 to 36 hours.
But, this isn't the first time the U.S. has invoked a national emergency status to handle this kind of crisis. The National Emergencies Act was signed by President Gerald Ford on September 14, 1976, and created the ability for any president to declare a national emergency as they see fit. As of today, 60 national emergencies have been declared since, with several in the last few months. The first national emergency was declared by Jimmy Carter in 1979, in response to the Iran hostage crisis, and blocked Iranian government property. That emergency is still in effect for all intents and purposes.
After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush declared national emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks, which was reinstated in September 2018 and is still in effect. In 2009, Barack Obama declared a state of national emergency over the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic. President Trump has already declared multiple national emergencies while in office, which is not unusual for a president, including a national emergency in November to impose sanctions in the event of a foreign country interfering in U.S. elections.