The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) is urging the Trump Administration and Congress to approve emergency supplemental funding for local health departments to respond to the coronavirus.
“Our nation has taken strong steps to help address the spread of coronavirus around the world and slow its spread here in the U.S. As we have done so, local health departments have been the front lines of these activities. Across the country, local health departments have been and continue to be responsible for assessing people for the risk of contracting the disease; finding and testing persons of interest who of have recently traveled to China or who are exhibiting symptoms; monitoring anyone who has been in close contact with people under investigation; and arranging for isolation and quarantine when necessary. They are working with health care providers to help ensure medical professionals know what to look for—and how to report—suspected cases. On top of all of this, they are working with their community partners to disseminate credible information, calm fears, and dispel myths,” NACCHO officials said in a statement.
The organization said local health professionals are going “above and beyond the call of duty” to respond to the threat, and that often means diverting staff and resources from other projects. This is not sustainable for local health departments, which have already lost nearly a quarter of their workforce in the past decade due to budget cuts.
“Among other things, local health departments need new, dedicated resources to support vital isolation/quarantine related activities, including transportation and lodging and wrap around services like behavioral health support or even necessities like food and toiletries. They need the support to locate and monitor the health status of patients that are currently under investigation, provide trusted outreach to the general public (including translation of public health materials), and healthcare facilities, and they need personal protective equipment.
To date, local health departments have not received any reimbursements for the work they have done to address the coronavirus, but the bill keeps getting longer. Emergency supplemental funding—both for the federal response, but also directed to local and state activities—is absolutely critical to support current response activities as well as future work to combat this powerful virus,” officials stated.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) also support the call to action to help local health departments.