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What are the Top COVID-19 Response Costs?

The coronavirus pandemic is putting an economic strain on communities across the United States, as leaders struggle to balance the rising costs of response with shut-down local economies. Governments are doing their best to manage public health and economic priorities, and each state is likely to have its own challenges amid the COVID-19 emergency. For example, network limits in rural regions may mean communities are less prepared to transition to virtual learning or implement telehealth. Major metropolitan areas might put vulnerable people - such as the elderly or immunocompromised - at a higher risk, creating greater need for delivery services for these individuals

Obtaining PPE and other healthcare equipment has become the primary cost in many states, with some states reporting spending millions on emergency shipments of surgical masks, N95 masks, or ventilators to address surges in coronavirus patients. Essential workers, especially those in the frontlines, must also be compensated for their work, and critical government offices, such as unemployment agencies, must be scaled up to address the influx of workers laid off or furloughed due to the crisis.

Related Blog: A Guide to Coronavirus Emergency Preparedness When Everyone is  Looking to You for Answers

The unpredictable nature of the current disaster may also require states to be more flexible with budgets, allocating funds to pursue creative solutions like contact tracing. 

What Are Major COVID-19 Response Expenses? 

Below are several of the top costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic, including medical expenses, public health expenses, essential worker payroll, economic support contingencies, and scientific research to facilitate response. 

Medical Expenses

  • Establishing temporary public medical facilities to expand COVID-19 treatment capacity and associated construction or set-up costs. 
  • COVID-19 testing sites and serological (antibody) testing, building capacity for widespread diagnostic testing to enable rapid interventions and contact tracing.
  • Operation of public telemedicine programs for COVID-19 pre diagnostics and treatment 
  • Emergency medical response and emergency medical transportation for COVID-19 patients.
  • Personal safety equipment and sanitation supplies, including personal protective equipment, such as surgical and respiratory masks and gloves, ventilators, as well as touch-free thermometers, gowns, disinfectant, and sanitizing wipes.

Public Health Expenses 

  • Emergency communication tools to inform community of public health risks and help enforce social-distancing protocol or a shelter-in-place order.
  • Quarantine facilities or isolation strategies for individuals who have contracted COVID-19 or might be exposed, i.e. hotel rooms to house healthcare workers trying not to expose families or loved ones to the virus.
  • Disinfection of public areas or facilities, including nursing homes, on a regular basis. 
  • Contact tracing infrastructure to identify potentially exposed persons and enforce public health protocol, as well as expanding research for more reliable data models to create better predictive models.

Related Blog: What is Contact Tracing?

Essential Worker Payroll 

  • Payroll for frontline workers responding to or mitigating the coronavirus crisis, including first responders, public safety, public health, health care, human services, government workers, or any other essential workers.
  • Payroll or hazard funds for essential business workers, such as grocery store employees, delivery workers, gas station employees, public transit drivers, etc. 

Economic Support 

  • Loans for small businesses to reimburse costs of business expenses during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus. 
  • Unemployment insurance costs for workers who have lost work following the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Resource Distribution

  • Food delivery for vulnerable residents, such as the elderly or immunocompromised. 
  • Distance learning or remote work tools, such as laptops for students, expanding 5G network reach, or boosting access to digital libraries Increasing homeless shelter capacity to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus on vulnerable populations.

How to Manage COVID-19 Response Costs 

COVID-19 has put a considerable strain on state and local governments, as communities move to expand personnel, access to protective equipment, build testing or treatment facilities, and distribute economic recovery grants. There are several strategies and resources available to local leaders looking to manage the financial strain of COVID-19 response or mitigation. First, FEMA is providing $100 million available to fire/EMS for COVID-19 response, supplemental funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), and related supplies. The funding is part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act through the Assistance for Firefighters. The grant application window is from April 28 to May 15. 

Related Blog: Alleviating Inbound Call Volume for SNAP Benefit Programs,  Housing, and Unemployment Offices

Many states have established “relief funds” to help those most impacted by the coronavirus, allowing residents or  businesses to contribute. In Massachusetts, city leaders founded the Boston Resiliency Fund, and the effort has raised $27.3 million to date. The priorities for the fund are food for children or seniors, technology for remote learning for students, and support for first responders and healthcare workers. Administrators can use a mass notification system to raise awareness about community efforts, encouraging those who are able to contribute to those most vulnerable to the economic impact of the coronavirus. 

An emergency notification system is a critical component of a coronavirus response plan, facilitating the efforts government leaders to mitigate the crisis. Officials can leverage emergency communication to make sure resources reach residents in need across communities. SMS Opt-in might be a particularly helpful feature to residents looking for updates on school and business closures, food pick-up stations, grant programs for businesses, freelancers, contractors, or artists, and any other relevant information. The tool allows residents to text a code - such as COVID - to a specific number to opt-in for further updates as the situation develops and additional resources become available.  


Mary Kate McGrath
Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.

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