Organizations Call on HHS to Renew Public Health Emergency Declaration
Public health and science organizations issue letter urging Secretary Azar to maintain PHE Declaration for COVID-19.
June 30, 2020
WASHINGTON—Recognizing the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is leading a diverse group of public health and science stakeholders in urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renew the public health emergency declaration (PHE) set to expire on July 25.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to society, our healthcare system and our economy. Many states and localities are still experiencing dramatic increases in SARS-CoV-2 infections and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
ASM, American Clinical Laboratory Association, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Big Cities Health Coalition, College of American Pathologists, Council on State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Infectious Diseases Society of America, National Association of County and City Health Officials, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, Trust for America’s Health and other fellow public health and science organizations, have issued a letter to HHS requesting an extension of the PHE for at least an additional 90 days. An extended PHE will enable the federal government to continue to deploy all resources and authorities necessary to protect the public and assist states and localities as they continue to respond to this urgent situation. Furthermore, maintaining the PHE status is required if we are to increase the pace of research on SARS-CoV-2, accelerate development of medical countermeasures, streamline efforts to bring novel diagnostics, vaccine candidates and therapeutic options to market and ensure that the public has access to healthcare and other social services.
“ASM will continue to seek out venues for bringing scientists together in the fight against COVD-19. It is critical that the scientific community voice our collective concern for a PHE extension in order to safeguard public health and make strides towards combating COVID-19,” said Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO, ASM. “As leaders in the microbial sciences, ASM has worked on multiple fronts to share factual, timely information on the novel coronavirus, advocate for expedited and widespread SARS-CoV-2 testing and provide free access to COVID-19-related research articles in our scholarly journals.”
“Rates of COVID-19 are increasing nationwide and states and territories need continued federal support to overcome the many challenges of this pandemic. Our public health leaders call on the Secretary to extend the emergency declaration—COVID-19 is not over but it can be contained if we dedicate ourselves to wearing masks, practicing physical distancing, and following the recommendations of state and territorial health agencies.” said Michael Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“In the midst of a pandemic and as cases continue to rise in many parts of the country, extending the PHE is just common sense,” said Chrissie Juliano, Executive Director, Big Cities Health Coalition, a forum for the leaders of 30 of America’s largest metropolitan health departments. “This critical designation has real policy implications for governmental public health departments at the local level, affording increased access to financial resources and regulatory waivers that expedite care. Public health departments are under stress, and we need to do everything we can to support them.”
“As we work to control the pandemic and return the country back to some semblance of normalcy, pathologists, and the laboratory professionals that they lead, are bringing online more tests to diagnose COVID-19 in communities throughout the United States,” said Patrick Godbey, President, American College of Pathologists. “However, a survey in June of the directors of laboratories accredited by the CAP found difficulties still persist in obtaining the necessary laboratory supplies, reagents, and other materials for tests. The CAP urges the federal government to extend the public health emergency declaration that allows agencies to move quickly in their support of laboratories and patient access to COVID-19 testing.”
“It is imperative that the federal government continue to appropriately recognize the current pandemic as a public health emergency and extend the declaration,” said Julie Khani, President, American Clinical Laboratory Association. “This crisis is far from over, and letting this declaration expire would have direct harm to communities across the country working to respond to this unprecedented health crisis.”
“We must extend the public health emergency declaration because the pandemic is not yet under control,” said Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association. "The PHE allows us to move ahead with research to develop a vaccine and step up coordination of a response through state and federal authorities to overcome this pandemic. Furthermore, provisions that communities continue to rely on, such as expanded telehealth reimbursement, free COVID-19 testing and increased federal matching for state Medicaid spending, could come to a halt if the declaration is not renewed. Without these tools, we would be in disarray. It is imperative that we use all available resources to fight this pandemic that is taking too many lives each day."
ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.