Despite Pleas From Pediatric Groups, Biden Balks at Declaring RSV a Health Emergency
FRIDAY, Nov. 18, 2022 (HealthDay News) — The Biden administration on Thursday offered assistance to communities and hospitals dealing with a surge in cases of pediatric respiratory illnesses, but it did not declare a national public health emergency.
The Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics had asked President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for that designation in a letter that noted an “alarming surge of pediatric hospitalizations.”
Seasonal flu and an early spike in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) among babies and toddlers are to blame: About 78 percent of pediatric hospital beds are full throughout the United States. Seven states have reached more than 90 percent of capacity in hospital beds for children, NBC News reported.
“These unprecedented levels of RSV happening with growing flu rates, ongoing high numbers of children in mental health crisis and serious workforce shortages are combining to stretch pediatric care capacity at the hospital and community level to the breaking point,” the pediatric groups wrote. “This crisis requires more action and support.”
But a Biden administration official said in a statement that “public health emergencies are determined based on nationwide data, science trends, and the insight of public health experts” and that the administration is “ready to provide assistance to communities who are in need of help on a case-by-case basis,” NBC News reported.
An emergency declaration would have allowed a more flexible response by pediatric practices and for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance, NBC News reported.