Hospitals urge Biden, Becerra to increase emergency declarations as hospitalizations attain pandemic highs

With case counts skyrocketing and hospitalizations now reaching pandemic highs, the nation’s largest hospital group is looking on the federal authorities to once more prolong COVID-19 emergency declarations set to run out within the coming days and months.

In separate letters to Division of Well being and Human Companies (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra and President Joe Biden, the American Hospital Affiliation (AHA) argued that the nation’s healthcare system is just not ready to lose waivers and flexibilities granted below the leaders’ respective COVID-19 public well being emergency declaration, set to run out Jan. 16, and the nationwide emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, set to run out March 1.

“The emergency declarations have confirmed important in equipping hospitals and well being programs with the instruments and sources essential to handle the latest COVID-19 surges and guarantee high-quality care on this unprecedented surroundings,” AHA wrote in each letters. “Of their absence, the challenges of the pandemic will probably be exponentially harder to beat.”

Becerra beforehand prolonged HHS’ public well being emergency on Oct. 15, 2021. AHA requested the company to resume that declaration “for not less than one other 90 days,” putting the following expiration in mid-April.

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Biden’s extension below the Nationwide Emergencies Act was issued Feb. 24, 2021. AHA requested the president to extend the emergency declaration for an additional full yr.

The request comes because the extremely infectious omicron variant has extra sufferers hospitalized than the earlier highs notched final January.

In keeping with HHS knowledge up to date Wednesday, greater than 151,261 of the nation’s inpatient beds and 24,711 ICU beds are presently in use for COVID-19 sufferers, respectively. New hospitalizations over a seven-day common have now reached 19,800 per day—a rise of 33% over final week, Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., mentioned as we speak in a briefing.

Staffing shortages felt by well being programs and front-line suppliers over the course of the pandemic have additionally been exacerbated by the most recent wave. To curtail shutdowns, some hard-hit areas are allowing COVID-positive healthcare employees with no signs to return to work with out isolation or further testing.

As of Wednesday, about half of the nation’s governors had enacted or reinstated their very own public well being emergencies to proceed vaccine distribution, COVID-19 testing, short-term staffing and different efforts associated to their COVID-19 response.

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“COVID-19 stays a big risk to our state and we should commit each useful resource accessible to beating again the wave attributable to the Omicron variant,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy mentioned in a Jan. 11 assertion alongside the reinstatement of his state’s public well being emergency. “Whereas we hope to return to a state of normalcy as quickly as potential, the step I’m taking as we speak is a commonsense measure that may shield the security and well-being of all New Jersey residents whereas permitting state authorities to answer the persevering with risk that COVID-19 poses to our every day lives.”

In its letters, the AHA acknowledged that “not all areas of the nation are experiencing COVID-19 surges concurrently,” however argued even these dealing with manageable case counts will profit from continued federal help.

“We’re hopeful that because the vaccination price will increase and different COVID-19 countermeasures are developed and utilized, the [public health emergency] will finally wane,” the trade group wrote. “Till that point, nonetheless, our members want the help and suppleness from the federal authorities.”

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