COVID-19 Crisis Brings Out the Best and Worst in State and Local Leadership

During the pandemic crisis, state and local leaders have had to compete for medical equipment and make hard economic decisions. Meryl Chertoff, executive director of the Georgetown Project on State and Local Government Policy and Law, says the crisis has brought out the best and worst in leadership and governance, and leaders will need to rely in a great deal more horizontal cooperation going forward.

When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on conducting business in state and local governments, Chertoff had this to say, “Any crisis brings out the best and worst in governments. Just the other day, Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon announced her state would send 140 ventilators to New York state as it is reaching the peak of its COVID-19 caseload. That is what I call horizontal federalism – states in relationships with other states – at its best.”

“The states doing the best are those with strong public health infrastructure and state health departments and governors who are data-driven, skilled at forward planning and good at delivering difficult messages with candor and compassion. That is how to build trust, which is so essential in a crisis environment.”

“A very negative development is how the states and cities have been forced into competition against one another and against the federal government for vital medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE), driving up prices and creating unproductive hostilities.”

Chertoff continued to address the situation regarding some states closing their borders, especially to those traveling from New York. She then talked about how the pandemic could affect the general election, which is still scheduled for November 3rd. And then she talked about the importance of interaction between the federal government and state and local leaders.

She finished by stating that “When the crisis is past, state and local authorities will do what the emergency management community calls a “hotwash” to see lessons learned. That is going to lead to a great deal more horizontal cooperation among states and within metropolitan areas along with the creation of crisis-response resources that build more resilient systems. There also will be a needed investment in state and local public health.”

Chertoff will moderate an April 8 event, “COVID-19 vs. The Constitution: How Far Can Governors Go to Fight the Virus?” The Zoom link is located in the original article.

Original article in Georgetown News