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Analysis

AHA Urges Azar to Extend Coronavirus Public Health Emergency

By John Commins  
   June 22, 2020

The emergency declaration is scheduled to expire on July 25, but hospitals say the status should be extended until key metrics are met.

The nation's hospitals are calling on the federal government to extend the coronavirus public health emergency that's set to expire next month, as providers in many parts of the nation grapple with COVID-19 hotspots and a recent sharp uptick in new cases.

"While not all areas of the country are seeing large numbers of COVID-19 patients, every hospital and health system is operating in a COVID-19 environment, requiring continued assistance from the federal government," American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard J. Pollack said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar.

"Remarkable progress in combating this pandemic continues to be made and now is not the time to pull back, but rather reinforce the need for a strong response from America’s hospitals and health systems as we work through the coming months," Pollack said.

No time frame was given for the extension of the emergency declaration, which Azar announced on January 31. Instead, Pollock offered four metrics that should be met before the emergency is lifted.

  • The supply chain is able to meet demand for personal protective equipment, lab testing supplies, and COVID-19 medications.
     
  • The number of lab tests administered nationwide exceeds 500,000 per day, and the number of COVID-19-positive tests is equal to or fewer than 5,000 per day for at least two weeks.
     
  • The number of patients in ICU beds nationwide is fewer than 5,000 per day for two weeks, and no more than 10% of those patients are in any one city or region.
     
  • The number of deaths per day from COVID-19 nationally is fewer than 500 for two weeks.

The AHA estimates that hospitals are losing about $50 billion a month, owing to the shutdown of elective and non-emergency services mandated by the pandemic.

Since the emergency was declared in January, the federal government has provided about $170 billion in relief for hospitals and other care providers during the pandemic.

"We are hopeful that one of the vaccine candidates currently in development will successfully complete all necessary trial phases," Pollack said. "However, until we reach that moment, our members, with your continued assistance and waiver flexibility, will remain ready and prepared to manage any future COVID-19 surges."

“Remarkable progress in combating this pandemic continues to be made and now is not the time to pull back.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: Lynchburg, Virginia / USA - November28, 2018: Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaking at a town hall discussion on the opioid crisis in America hosted by Liberty University. / Editorial credit: The Old Major / Shutterstock.com


KEY TAKEAWAYS

AHA says four metrics should be met before the emergency is lifted.

The supply chain is able to meet demand for personal protective equipment, lab testing supplies, and COVID-19 medications.

The number of lab tests exceeds 500,000 per day, and the number of COVID-19-positive tests is fewer than 5,000 per day for at least two weeks.

The number of patients in ICU beds is fewer than 5,000 per day for two weeks, and no more than 10% of those patients are in any one city or region.

The number of deaths per day from COVID-19 nationally is fewer than 500 for two weeks.


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