Stanwood, Washington- The City of Stanwood, Washington has joined Snohomish County and several Snohomish County Cities in declaring a “State of Emergency” as they monitor county and local conditions on the Coronavirus also known as COVID-19. Stanwood Mayor Kelly signed the declaration on March 9th. The emergency declaration activates the City of Stanwood Emergency Operations Plan and the Snohomish County Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan pursuant to RCW 38.52.
Stanwood has one confirmed coronavirus case, so many people have asked, “Why would the Mayor of Stanwood or any other City or County in Washington State declare a “State of Emergency” in response to the COVID-19 virus?” The answer is pretty simple and it isn’t as scary as it sounds. A “State of Emergency” will be declared when a Mayor, Governor or the President of the United States determines a disaster, natural or man-made is severe enough to warrant additional aid and response beyond what is normally available locally to forestall additional damage, loss, hardship, suffering or loss of life.
Ultimately, this declaration authorizes local government under R.C.W 38.52.070(2) to enter into contracts and incur obligations necessary to combat such an emergency. Each designated department is authorized to exercise their powers vested in the resolution, in light of demands of extreme emergency situation, without regard to time consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law. In other words, it cuts a bunch of the red tape and allows local agencies to speed up agency assistance to communities in need during the emergency. It also opens up resources, including state and federal funding that is only available under a “State of Emergency.”
The determination of whether circumstances justify or require the declaration of an emergency depends on conditions set out in state law. Traditionally states have a general statue that permits the governor to declare a state of emergency for any type of emergency or natural disaster, which can be construed broadly to include disease epidemics and other public health emergencies. In the last decade, states have begun to refine their approaches to defining emergencies; a state may have one or more statutory definitions to define emergencies, including “disaster,” “emergency,” and “public health emergency.” In states with multiple types of emergencies, it may be possible to have more than one type of emergency declared at the same time.
Declaring a “State of Emergency” provides local governments with the powers necessary to “coordinate and implement plans aimed at protecting people and property during a disaster.” Ultimately, Stanwood is planning ahead and taking proactive steps to ensure they have resources available if the virus becomes a challenge for local resources.
Why would we need more resources? The answer is complex, yet simple. As the person-to-person spread of Coronavirus continues to happen, waves of newly sick patients may seek out medical treatment in large numbers at local hospitals and clinics. You will need Doctors, Nurses, and Medical Providers to see and treat them. You will need hospital beds for them to stay in. What happens when those same Doctors, nurses and medical staff have now become sick because they have had contact with infected patients? We’re seeing this exact situation on the news in the increased incidents of providers and first responders who have become sick after treating patients at the Kirkland Life Care Center,. Paramedics, Firefighters and First Responders could become sick and not be able to respond to 9-1-1 calls in the time of an emergency. This is why the City of Stanwood and many other cities in Snohomish County have declared a State of Emergency. This epidemic is going to continue to grow and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), this virus may reach pandemic levels. Should that be the case, our local government, hospitals, and resources will need additional resources under the “State of Emergency” declaration. Cities, Counties, Hospitals, Firefighters, police and medics all train for disaster situations. It is better to be prepared for a worst case scenario then not be prepared at all.