[UPDATE: November 13, 2020]
The lack of message or policy from the Executive Branch about the pandemic continues even in the face of an intense surge in COVID-19 cases all around the United States.
The incoming administration is taking whatever aggressive steps it can during the transition but – of course – has no power until January 20, 2021, to put any policies into effect.
[UPDATE: August 31, 2020]
The Executive Branch continues to lack a coherent or consistent message or policy concerning the COVID-19 crisis. There is no national plan to combat the pandemic except to shift responsibility to the state and local governments; from time to time, though, the White House attempts to pressure the sub-federal levels to follow one favored policy or another, and to punish others for failing to push those themes.
Particularly troublesome, though, is the Administration’s meddling in deliberations and decisions of the premiere health agencies including the CDC and the FDA. These formerly nonpartisan parts of the Executive Branch, along with safety agency OSHA, are now center stage during this pandemic. Nevertheless, other agencies including Treasury and Labor also have important roles in interpreting and implementing COVID-19-related laws.
[UPDATE: May 3, 2020]
The Executive Branch lacks a coherent or consistent message or policy concerning the COVID-19 crisis. The White House’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 30 Days To Stop the Spread (March 31, 2020) has expired; they were not mandatory in any event. In addition, much of the decision-making has been taken up by the states.
The emergency federal legislation enacted over a series of weeks since March leaves a great deal of interpretation and operational discretion to the federal administrative agencies including the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration, and others. There were difficult roll-outs for many of the programs including most notably the Payroll Protection Program (PPP); funds were distributed unevenly and they ran out quickly.
[April 1, 2020]
The President and the federal executive departments and agencies issue regulations, rules, and guidelines either to carry out the Administration’s policies or to implement laws enacted by Congress.
In Coronavirus Guidelines for America (March 31, 2020), the White House issued its most recent “guidelines”: – 30 Days to Stop the Spread. These are not mandatory; the states and local governments have the authority to determine restrictions and limitations on activities. “Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.” They are also less restrictive than the stay-at-home orders of the California governor and of many other states. For instance, the White House guideline advises: “Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”
There are almost 100 executive departments and agencies that have some responsibility for aspects of the effort to combat the coronavirus. See Federal Agencies Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19). The references listed here are just a few of the staggering number: already in existence, updated recently to cover COVID-19, or what will be a deluge of regulations, rules, and guidance on the major legislation just passed by Congress.
In some cases, they also overlap rules and guidance from state or local health agencies, labor departments, or other regulatory bodies.
[We’ll include some of these and other references in specific topic areas at other parts of this micro-site.]