California Governor Gavin Newsom put the state’s National Guard on alert Wednesday to prepare for several duties that could include the enforcement of martial law in the wake of the deadly coronavirus.
Newsom’s office explained that readying the National Guard is mostly for performing routine duties during natural disasters. Other duties for the California National Guard include humanitarian missions such as distributing food and public safety while stores are forced to rationing, which has caused violent outbreaks in stores around the country.
“If you want to establish a framework of martial law, which is ultimate authority and enforcement, we have the capacity to do that, but we are not feeling at this moment that is a necessity,” Newsom said on Sunday.
Imposing martial law would mean replacing usual laws with military authority and possibly even suspend civil liberties such as freedom of association and movement, an extraordinary step that has only happened about a dozen times in the history of the United States, most recently in the 1960s in Alabama when the state was forced to racially integrate.
“We will get back to the life that we have lived,” Newsom promised.
The California state legislature approved $1.1 billion in emergency spending on Monday and the government is acquiring two vacant hospitals to bed people who are infected with the coronavirus. As part of the justification for the social distancing and self-quarantine measures, hospitals could easily lose their space to people who are infected with the virus as bed shortages become more common around the world.
The state is also in negotiations with 900 hospitals to acquire tens of thousands of rooms that could also be used for hospital patients.
The possibility that the pandemic could last until August and cause a recession has caused fear over the virus has rapidly risen across the country. The Trump administration announced several plans to combat the coronavirus in several ways. One element of a potential plan is to stimulate the economy by giving direct cash payments to Americans most affected.
President Donald Trump has also announced that additional coronavirus testing kits, reportedly 5 million, will be available at the end of the month. One of the most pressing problems for containing the spread of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19, is the limited number of testing kits available.
According to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data, across the globe, there are more than 278,000 cases of coronavirus, more than 11,500 deaths, and more than 89,000 people have recovered from the virus. There are more than 19,000 cases in the United States, although that number is suspected to be much greater due to the lack of available test kits, and there are at least 260 deaths from the coronavirus.
In California alone, there are at least 1,247 cases and 24 deaths from the virus.
With the National Institute of Health’s funding, the first COVID-19 vaccine, called mRNA-1273, began the first phase of testing on Monday in Seattle at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. However, the vaccine trials will take at least 12 months to complete.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify the circumstances around whether the Trump administration is considering a temporary universal basic income or direct cash payments to Americans most affected by the economic ramifications from the coronavirus.