The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) staff is hard at work keeping Americans safe 24/7. In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, the EOC has sent teams to help with clinical management, contact tracing, and communications. (CDC photo)

FEMA: No Emergency Declaration on Coronavirus, HHS Remains Lead Agency on Response

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that, contrary to a report earlier this week, the agency is not preparing an emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus and clarified that the Department of Health and Human Services is in the lead on the outbreak.

NBC News reported Monday that FEMA officials were preparing for an “infectious disease emergency declaration” by the president, utilizing the 1988 Stafford Act in order to allow disaster assistance traditionally allocated after natural disasters to be offered to state and local governments fighting COVID-19.

“At this time, FEMA is not preparing an emergency declaration in addition to the HHS public health emergency,” FEMA said in a statement to HSToday. “HHS is the lead agency on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus.”

“Consistent with its mission, FEMA has been promoting preparedness activities and is currently a supporting agency to HHS delivering crisis action planning, situational awareness, reporting, interagency coordination, course of action development and logistics supply chain analysis through a Crisis Action Task Force located at the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center,” the agency added.

HHS announced Wednesday that it was transferring $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help state and local jurisdictions that have shouldered the biggest burden thus far in the outbreak and have immediate funding needs for things such as monitoring of travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, infection control, and surge staffing.

“State and local governments are the backbone of our public health system,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “They have been essential partners in the ongoing work to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.”

HHS also announced $10 million to a “limited number of jurisdictions” to ” begin implementation of coronavirus surveillance across the U.S., building on existing influenza activities and other surveillance systems.”

The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, confirms HHS’ role as the lead agency for a public health response.

FEMA — through a Crisis Action Task Force at the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center – provides support to HHS through delivery of crisis action planning, situational awareness reporting, interagency coordination, course of action development, and logistics supply chain analysis.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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