The United States President declared a national state of emergency Friday, March 13 in response to the covid-19 pandemic.
Coupled with the Stafford act and a national public health emergency, the United States government is trying to contain and slow the spread of covid-19.
The last enactment of a national state of emergency for public health was under Obama in October 2009 for the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic.
1. What is a state of emergency
A state of emergency is defined as a situation of national danger or disaster in which a government suspends normal constitutional procedures in order to regain control.
Declaring a state of emergency is is up to the presidents discretion as there is no defined circumstance to enact a state of emergency.
The president may bypass Congress and redistribute funding previously allocated by lawmakers toward whatever areas the executive branch head deems fit.
2. Public Health Emergency
The United States has been under a public health emergency since January 27, 2020.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the entire United States in response to Covid-19. In January of 2020 there were confirmed cases in the United States of covid-19.
Declaring a national state of emergency, along with a public health emergency, has unlocked FEMA’s ability to access funding (Stafford act) and to start bypassing requirements attached to federal health services programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
3. Medical Benefits
A state of emergency allows laws around healthcare to be suspended or modified. Declaring a state of emergency opens up available healthcare workers otherwise ordinarily restrained from practicing.
Healthcare workers with out-of-state licenses may start practicing wherever they are, liabilities on doctors may be reduced and medications may be distributed out of a health care facility.
The official declaration states, “The Secretary of HHS may exercise the authority under section 1135 of the SSA to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the covid‑19 outbreak. “
Orange County’s recommendation to shut down schools, restaurant, bars and restrict elderly travel is a part of the state of emergency.
The declaration allows local governments to enforce business shut-downs, cancel gatherings and enforce curfews. Local governments may also enforce self quarantine and limit participation or work in non-essential activities and industries.
Orange County Health Officer Dr. Nichole Quick said in a statement, “We are taking these mitigation steps in line with a directive issued by Governor Newsom to help slow the spread of covid-19.”
Currently a two week self-quarantine is being asked of Orange County residents and schools. All businesses that don’t serve food are being asked to close. The order continues until March, 31.