HHS: COVID-19 flexibilities apply to flu, RSV response efforts

States and healthcare organizations can use regulatory flexibilities permitted under the COVID-19 public health emergency to address capacity challenges stemming from a severe respiratory virus season, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told governors this month, according to AHA News.  

Such flexibilities include a blanket waiver that allows hospitals to screen patients off site, provide care in temporary expansion sites and easily transfer patients between facilities. 

"These flexibilities remain available to address emerging concerns, including the spread of RSV and flu, when a provider determines that — as a result of the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 emergency — standard regulatory requirements could not otherwise be met," Mr. Becerra wrote in a Dec. 2 letter to governors.

Mr. Becerra also outlined other actions the agency is taking to support healthcare providers amid the surge in respiratory illnesses, including offering additional public health funding, monitoring the supply chain for drug and device shortages, and quickly responding to requests for federal medical assistance. 

Mr. Becerra's letter came about three weeks after the Children's Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics called on HHS to declare a national and public health emergency to free up resources and give hospitals more flexibility to respond to an "alarming surge of pediatric hospitalizations" from RSV and flu. 

"These flexibilities have been provided under COVID-19 and were critical during the height of the surge and ongoing fluctuations of the virus," the pediatric groups said in their letter to Mr. Becerra and President Joe Biden. "Children and children's providers require the same capacity support as they strive to keep up with the increasing needs of our youngest Americans." 

 

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