While some states have declared a state of public emergency as a result of COVID-19, these are quite different from federal disaster declarations which typically happen after a national disaster, such as a hurricane or flood. Chief Clinical Officer of Cross Country Healthcare, Hank Drummond, sheds light on the differences between state and federal state of emergency declarations and how these enable more resources and support to help address an outbreak.
“Federal state of emergency declarations are the responsibility of the President of the United States and trigger the release of federal funds,” says Drummond. “In a governors’ emergency declaration, all levels of state government are able to mobilize to provide public health and financial assistance to city and county governments and protect consumers from price gouging on items like hand sanitizer and face masks. It does not mean COVID-19 is or is expected to be rampant in Florida.”
At the federal level, a public health emergency gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) more flexibility to help states respond to a threat. If necessary, it also lets HHS suspend or modify some laws, such as part of the HIPAA privacy rule or laws requiring medications only be given out in healthcare facilities.
“While federal level support is important, there is great reliance on state and local governments to assist in responding to an outbreak,” says Drummond. “Although the federal government took the first steps to respond to COVID-19 and placed people in federal quarantine for the first time in 50 years, they simply won’t be able to sustain those types of practices or level of support. Instead, they will rely heavily on state and local authorities to provide such support.”
State and local governments have several actions they can take to help in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, including the ability to require people to isolate or quarantine, school or event shutdowns and curfews. States might let medical professionals who are licensed in other places practice there or allow healthcare volunteers to handle low-level medical tasks under the supervision of a doctor. Or, a state may take all or none of those steps.
“Simply put, the types of emergencies declared determine who takes the lead in a crisis,” says Drummond. “For example, if there is an emergency declaration made, typically emergency management experts will take charge. Whereas in a public health emergency, departments of health will take primary responsibility. This is what happened in the case of COVID-19, and thus why HHS is leading the response.
“We will continue to keep all people informed of the latest developments, including ongoing communication and education efforts for our staff and the general public.”
As always, any questions or concerns can be addressed by calling the Cross Country Healthcare Clinical Hotline at 800.998.5058.