With multiple confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is planning to step in and assist with the Trump administration’s coronavirus response. NBC News reported today that two deaths were recorded in Washington over the weekend both of which are linked to the virus. The following states also have at least one confirmed case:
- New York
- Rhode Island
The news source said that after reviewing internal documents, it appears that FEMA officials are preparing for an “infectious disease emergency declaration” by the president “which would allow the agency to provide disaster relief funding to state and local governments, as well as federal assistance to support the coronavirus response.” In order to receive the disaster assistance, the source says that the Trump administration would have to evoke the 1988 Stafford Act. Although the disaster assistance is typically provided after a natural disaster strikes, it can be used “to help manage disease outbreaks.”
As of January 2020, FEMA’S disaster relief fund has a current balance of $34 million. A former FEMA official, who has asked not to be identified, said that “It’s money that’s sitting there and ready.” Michael Coen, who was FEMA chief of staff during the Obama administration, has expressed that the President utilizing FEMA funds is “another indication that the [he] and the White House are finally aware of the gravity of the situation.” He also said, “They need to consider all tools available to them and have contingencies for action.”
If the President were to issue an emergency declaration, it “would allow FEMA to provide disaster medical assistance teams, mobile hospitals and military transport, among other kinds of federal support.”
The news source cited that this wouldn’t be the first time the government has had to turn to FEMA for support during a medical event. In 2000, “President Bill Clinton used a Stafford Act emergency declaration for outbreaks of the West Nile virus in New York and New Jersey.” He ordered up to $5 million in federal aid “to supplement state efforts to combat the mosquito-borne virus.”
Protecting Yourself from the Coronavirus
Although the U.S. doesn’t have quite as many cases recorded of the novel coronavirus as other countries, citizens are being urged to take precautions and start preparing as there could be more cases that haven’t yet been identified. WebMD has recommended several ways you can protect yourself from the coronavirus which include:
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times a day.
- Always wash your hands before cooking and eating, after using the restroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your face and keep an eye out for potential symptoms of the virus. Currently, health officials believe the symptoms that are most commonly associated with the coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Avoid going to public places.
- Refrain from traveling if you are sick or have a fever.
- Stock up on supplies (i.e. prescription medication, over-the-counter medicines, etc.) in the event someone gets sick.
While WebMD says that COVID-19 has not been declared a pandemic, you can start taking precautionary measures now in the event more cases are reported.