State and local governments should get ready to reopen K-12 schools, but also prepare hospitals and public transportation systems for a possible second wave of COVID-19, according to a new round of recommendations from the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission.
The National Coronavirus Recovery Commission, assembled by The Heritage Foundation, is made up of 17 experts with experience in government, public health, disaster response and relief, academia and education, business, and the faith community. Launched April 6, the panel now has released a total of 269 recommendations.
The latest recommendations focus on determining how big government policies failed in response to the spread of COVID-19 and on providing better solutions for federal, state, and local governments for the next potential public health crisis.
“Saving lives and livelihoods in the wake of the coronavirus requires policymakers to honestly evaluate what went wrong as we prepare for another wave of the virus and future pandemics,” Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James, the commission’s chairwoman, said in a prepared statement.
Also Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to help slash regulations to boost the economy. It directed agencies to use all emergency authorities to identify and rescind or temporarily waive regulations to promote job creation and economic growth. It also included a “Regulatory Bill of Rights” – or a set of 10 basic principles to govern administrative enforcement.
In June, the coronavirus recovery commission expects to deliver a last report with final recommendations and an assessment of each state’s coronavirus response.
“While we move to get Americans safely back to work, governments must resist the urge to spend more money and create new programs without even examining what actually works,” James said, adding:
More now than ever, we know the American spirit of freedom and free enterprise will play a defining role in empowering workers, businesses, health providers, patients, and all Americans to defeat the coronavirus.
Here are seven highlights from the National Coronavirus Recovery Commission’s new recommendations.
1. Reopening Schools
State and local governments should work to reopen classrooms for grades K-12, but take targeted measures to protect the health of students and teachers.
President Donald Trump has said he favors the reopening of schools, although his health experts have warned that local and state officials should take precautions.
As the threat of COVID-19 became clear, Trump assembled a White House coronavirus task force made up of officials from nearly every government department and headed by Vice President Mike Pence.
2. Actions by the Administration
The Trump administration should develop and submit to Congress a plan to restructure and reform the functions of federal public health agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services. The goal: to ensure quicker and more effective responses to future epidemics, pandemics, and infectious diseases.
Trump should sign an executive order tasking his Cabinet with examining and evaluating the crisis response systems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and developing recommendations for future preparedness.
Federal agencies should streamline access to spectrum to accelerate deployment of the 5G network.
3. Governors’ Executive Actions
State legislatures should review, and possibly revise, the granting of emergency powers to governors in light of some executive actions taken by various governors during the pandemic.
Several governors came under criticism for overreaching and encroaching on individual liberties in their states. The commission’s report doesn’t name any governors, but raises concerns with separation of powers.
4. Hospital Preparation
State policymakers should set up a new strategy to better equip hospitals for dealing with a major pandemic, and states should work with Congress when necessary on this front.
Many hospitals faced a strain as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded, and those in New York were overwhelmed. Trump ordered a Navy hospital ship to New York City to offer assistance.
5. Role of Congress
Congress should pay for some of its trillions of dollars in stimulus spending with the sale of federal property.
Congress should create a more friendly business and tax environment to encourage medical supply and pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and investment to return to the United States.
Congress thus far has spent more than $3 trillion in response to the coronavirus, and is developing a plan for more aid to states, individuals, companies, and nonprofits.
6. Fiscal Responsibility
State and local governments should set aside a minimum of two months’ worth of operating expenditures, or roughly 16% of expenditures, for times of crisis as suggested by the Government Finance Officers Association.
Responding to the pandemic led to massive spending by federal, state, and local governments. Some state governments have demanded bailouts from federal taxpayers to cover costs not related to the virus, such as pension fund shortfalls.
7. Public Transportation
State and local governments should put in place plans for mass transit systems that protect both the public and transit workers during future epidemics. This would mean reforming transit agency operations to reduce financial vulnerability.
Public transportation in major cities is a particular concern during the spread of a highly contagious disease. New York City faced criticism for being slow to sanitize the subway system on a nightly basis.