After Hurricane Idalia struck Florida as a Category 3 storm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a Public Health Emergency (PHE) in the state and authorized deployment of emergency response personnel.
Approximately 68 medical and disaster management personnel from the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) were deployed as a result, while HHS reached out to impacted communities. This, coupled with President Joe Biden’s own emergency declaration, allowed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) health care providers and suppliers more flexibility to address emergency health needs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries as well.
“We will do everything in our power to assist Florida officials with responding to the health impacts of Hurricane Idalia,” Becerra said. “At President Biden’s direction, we are working closely with state and local health authorities, as well as our partners across the federal government, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”
Many of the deployed personnel – 32 in all – were from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), which will support hurricane response through health care facility assessments, resupplies of emergency vehicles’ medications and clinical service offerings to bolster local health systems. Another 15 deployments constituted an incident management team, which included Regional Emergency Coordinators, Public Health Service officers and logistics staff to work collaboratively with FEMA, Florida health authorities and emergency response officials.
Idalia weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday evening, but continued dumping heavy rains and strong winds as it swung out to Georgia and the Carolinas. Flash flooding and coastal storm surge resulted, and when it first made landfall, it brought with it winds of up to 125 mph. As of Thursday morning, more than 250,000 homes and businesses in Florida remained without power, but restoration efforts were underway. So far, only a handful of deaths had been reported as a result of the storm, however.