Breaking reports suggest the Trump Administration will declare a state of emergency over COVID-19 at a press conference at 3 pm EST, today. The declaration will allow the government to use the Stafford Act, which gives the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the power to coordinate a federal response to the pandemic.
“We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.
The details of the announcement are reportedly still being finalized ahead of the conference. The act specifies two emergency levels Trump can choose between, each providing a different sort of power to the president: an emergency declaration or major disaster declaration.
A major disaster declaration would help with unemployment assistance and food coupons, but a pandemic is not listed under the definition of a major disaster (such as a tornado or earthquake). An emergency declaration includes a major public health risk (such as COVID-19), but would not offer unemployment assistance.
Many countries across the world and, in Europe in particular, are in a state of emergency and have employed a variety of methods to curb the spread of the virus: school closures, debt holidays, and forbidding large gatherings are among some of the common approaches. In the US, almost 30 states have declared a state of emergency as of this week.
Many people will become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 condition. The goal of these measures is to make sure the number of new cases remains low enough that hospitals and medical facilities can manage the load.