The Corner

Politics & Policy

Maybe the ‘New Normal’ after Coronavirus Should Keep Some of These Changes

An Alitalia airline employee wearing a face mask waves as he leaves a hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 16, 2020. (Agustin Marcarian/Reuters)

Is anyone keeping track of the changes being forced by the coronavirus that might be worth keeping around after this crisis is over?

All across the country, the federal government, states, and localities are looking at their regulations and deciding they might not be so needed during the current outbreak. And surely, many of the waived rules will come back . . . but should all of them?

If the Transportation Security Administration is okay with 12-ounce bottles of hand-sanitizer in carry-on luggage . . . maybe we can get rid of the 3.4-ounce rule for everything else?

If state medical boards are expediting temporary licensure for out-of-state physicians, physician assistants, and respiratory care practitioners . . . maybe we can rethink whether the current regulations make it too complicated and time-consuming for doctors to move their practices and operate in different states?

Highway safety regulators are suspending rules on the number of hours a trucker can drive if the truck is supplying medical equipment, hand sanitizer, or food. Obviously, we don’t want drowsy truckers at any time. But if we can trust truckers to use good judgment at a time like this . . . can we trust them all the time?

There’s a push to get California to suspend AB5 — the law that effectively banned many companies from hiring independent contractors rather than permanent employees with benefits — at least for the duration of the crisis. Whatever you think of the “gig economy,” this is not a good time to try to smother it through regulations.

And ultimately, the story of the insufficient number of tests in the United States is the story of the enforcement of pre-written regulations in circumstances when it made no sense:

The administration of President Donald Trump was tripped up by government rules and conventions, former officials and public health experts say. Instead of drafting the private sector early on to develop tests, as South Korea did, U.S. health officials relied, as is customary, on test kits prepared by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of which proved faulty. Then, sticking to its time-consuming vetting procedures, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t approve tests other than the CDC’s until Feb. 29, more than five weeks after discussions with outside labs had begun.

Some doctors have been pushing for telehealth — consulting your doctor over the Internet — for years. Some other doctors and state medical boards have dragged their feet in approving the method of providing care. “Vendors like Teladoc, AmWell and Doctor on Demand have been lobbying for years to get their services covered under traditional fee-for-service Medicare.” The Trump administration just authorized it for the duration of the coronavirus emergency. Maybe we should keep it as an option afterwards?

Finally . . . what would a “normal” cold and flu season be like if we washed our hands like this all the time?


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