CT Scrambles to Respond to
COVID-19 Following Lack of Federal Action
By: Ethan Mathieu
WEST HARTFORD - The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has drastically increased in just one week. The unprecedented pandemic warrants an unprecedented response. Signals from Washington, however, have been sporadic.
President Trump greatly reduced a National Security Council office designed specifically for pandemic response back in 2018. That decision has clearly come back to haunt his administration. Trump was also slow to respond to initial reports of COVID-19, choosing instead to brand it as a “foreign” virus. America is now trying to make up for lost time.
Trump has taken some measures in response to coronavirus. He declared a “national emergency” on March 13th in order to expand his federal power. Most notable of his actions thus far was his decision to restrict the travel of foreign nationals who have recently been outside of the country. These actions, though, may be too little too late. By and large, the country still remains extremely vulnerable.
Trump rejected COVID-19 tests from Germany, which have crippled our ability to understand how widespread the virus is. America is uniquely unable to handle a spike in cases due to our private healthcare system. If we do not “flatten the curve” quickly, the country could run out of hospital beds.
Most of the “action” from Washington has come in the form of briefings and guidelines, with very little binding legislation and direction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as a result, felt the need to bypass the Executive Branch. On March 14th, a Coronoavirus relief bill passed the House, which currently sits on the desk of Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. The bill does not include a much desired paid-sick leave mandate, demonstrating that even in a time of national crisis, big business still has a say.
The way the American healthcare system is set up coupled with inaction from the federal government have led states to act more independently. Our Governor, Ned Lamont, has become one of the most decisive actors. In association with New Jersey and New York, gatherings of more than 50 people were outright banned. Restaurants and bars were ordered to only fulfill take-out orders. Movie theatres and gyms are closed until further notice.
There is only so much that the individual states can do. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has been one of loudest voices on the limitations of state government. He has called for the president to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers in order to increase hospital capacity.
In order to fully rid the nation of COVID-19, however, each state needs to be on the same page. A statewide quarantine in Connecticut is only effective if Massachusetts and Pennsylvania does the same, for example. That requires federal leadership, which at the present moment, has been sorely lacking.