Tarren Bragdon: Governors' responses to coronavirus offer hope to worried Americans

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The coronavirus outbreak has turned our world upside down. Schools have closed, businesses temporarily shut down, and countless Americans are staying at home to protect themselves and others.

It’s been a couple weeks for many of us, but it’s still jarring how quickly everything changed. Just a few weeks ago, all anyone was talking about was the 2020 election, and now it’s all COVID-19 all the time. This pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent decades, yet the American response to it remains on brand: we work together to get through it.

It’s also shone a light on several policy items that until recently have gone under the radar — including the flexibility of telework, the importance of telemedicine across state lines, and loosening the red tape already stifling families that barely get by. They may have gone under the radar, but for many Americans, even before this crisis, these policies keep them employed and a roof over their heads.

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A lot of credit must go to President Trump’s leadership nationally. Likewise, the governors across the country have been hard at work getting government out of the way when necessary and smoothing the path for citizens and patients alike.

It is my hope that these changes are not temporary for just this crisis, but they become a permanent foundation for what could be these governors’ legacies of good policy in good times and bad.

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Many states are embracing policies that increase flexibility and expand access to health care, including through expanded use of telehealth — or telemedicine — technologies.

Gov. Jim Justice in West Virginia, for example, took action to allow physicians to use telemedicine to care for patients across state lines. This commonsense approach reduces foot traffic to doctors’ offices and hospitals while ensuring individuals retain access to health care providers during this difficult time.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbot has directed the state’s medical licensing boards to fast-track the approval of temporary licenses for out-of-state physicians. Governors in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and elsewhere have taken similar action to the benefit of states. And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation allowing nurse practitioners to practice independently of an attending physician.

These actions and others show how impactful strong leadership at the state level can be, and it speaks to the promise of Americans’ ability to come together to get the job done.

These measures, and others like them, increase the supply of medical professionals that can provide much-needed care for patients with COVID-19 or any other medical condition.

We’ve also seen smart economic measures pushed through to ease the impact on individuals and businesses.

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Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa suspended regulations pertaining to vehicle registrations, allowing those whose registrations expire during the current crisis to delay the costs of renewal until they are back to work. Most states have postponed tax filing deadlines to match the federal government’s delay, enabling businesses to keep more cash on hand while many of their doors remain closed.

And Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has even taken executive action to make child care easier to secure during a time when many essential employees are trying to balance their critical work with caring for children that are home from school.

These are only a few examples of executive and legislative actions at the state level that are having an immediate and positive impact on American families and businesses that are desperate for good news. It shows how impactful strong leadership at the state level can be, and it speaks to the promise of Americans’ ability to come together to get the job done.

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We need to continue focusing on policies that get government red tape out of the way, get people back to work and preserve our safety nets for the people who need them most as we move forward in recovery. The actions taken by several governors these past two weeks give me hope that there’s a path forward.

One day soon, life will return to what we once considered normal. We may not know when the coronavirus pandemic will officially end, but we do know added pressure to the policymaking process has forced good policy to the surface. We’ve seen reforms that break down unnecessary barriers and expand access to health care, work and economic security, measures that will benefit all American families and businesses — both in times of crisis and prosperity.

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