The federal public health emergency declared due to COVID-19, which is set to expire Jan. 23, should be extended until five criteria are met, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson said in a Dec. 28 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar.

The current public health emergency was declared Jan. 31, 2020. Without it, Parkinson told Azar, the challenges faced by long-term care providers due to the pandemic — among them managing rapid bed capacity increases, quickly overhauling and implementing telehealth systems, and acquiring personal protective equipment — “would have been exponentially more difficult to overcome, which is why we are asking for continued action from HHS moving forward.”

“With the current surges and projected additional surges, we anticipate the challenges associated with COVID-19 that our members and communities face every day will continue throughout several months, and potentially another entire year as the vaccine is administered,” he said, later adding that “now is not the time to pull back, but rather reinforce the need for a strong response from SNFs and [assisted living communities] as we work through the coming months.”

The five criteria AHCA / NCAL see as critical for ending the declaration:

  1. The supply chain is able to continuously meet the increased demand for PPE needed to keep healthcare workers safe in treating people who have and do not have COVID-19 and able to meet the demand for laboratory testing supplies and COVID medications. 
  2. The number of laboratory tests administered per day in the United States exceeds 500,000 per day and the number of COVID-19-positive test results is equal to or fewer than 5,000 per day for at least 14 days. 
  3. The number of patients in intensive care unit beds in the United States is fewer than 5,000 per day for 14 days and no more than 10% of those patients are in any one city or region. 
  4. The number of deaths per day from COVID-19 in the United States is fewer than 500 for 14 days. 
  5. Vaccine administration has achieved or exceeded the 70% needed to establish herd immunity.