Three of the nation’s largest organizations representing hospitals, physicians, nurses and health care providers called on the Trump administration to declare the spread of COVID-19 a national disaster or emergency on Thursday, saying the designation could free up needed resources to help treat the growing number of Americans infected with the new coronavirus.
“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is crucial to the health of our nation,” the chiefs of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday. “It is of upmost [sic] importance that any concerns about costs for testing and care be removed so that individuals can be screened and if necessary treated.”
Pence is currently leading the nation’s response to the rapidly spiraling coronavirus outbreak.
The call comes as coronavirus infections continue to spread throughout the United States. At least 1,600 people in the country have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 disease, and states have taken dramatic measures to try to curb infections. New York banned most gatherings of more than 500 people, Disneyland and Disney World are closed until at least the end of the month, and both the NBA and NCAA have scuttled future games.
Trump has so far declined to issue a national emergency declaration over the coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization this week. Politico reported the president has worried that doing so would stoke further panic and batter the already plummeting financial markets.
During an address to the nation Wednesday, Trump instead rolled out a ban on some travel from Europe and said he was working with lawmakers to develop a fiscal package to avert any lasting financial crisis. But he failed to address difficulties in getting tested for the virus, which have been widely reported.
The White House has worked with American health care companies, which will cover testing to determine if people are infected with the coronavirus. Treatment is not covered without copayments, and the costs could leave the sick with high medical bills.
The health associations on Thursday pointed to the urgency of expanded testing and said that a disaster or emergency declaration would cut red tape and let “hospitals, physicians and other health care providers … share resources in a coordinated effort to care for their community.”
“America’s health care system must be there to help communities face an emergency from a natural disaster, a manmade disaster, or a virulent contagious disease,” the groups wrote. “Our members are prepared to do our part to help patients and our communities. This requested action will provide the support we need in our collective mission to support the well-being, health and safety of patients by allowing flexibility at a time when it is needed most.”
Hospitals around the county are reportedly preparing for an onslaught of patients should the outbreak continue to spread, and some are worried about their capacity to treat everyone who comes through the doors.