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Millions in Uncovered Costs Already Incurred by Local Health Departments for Coronavirus Response

Image credit: Global Biodefense

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), on behalf of the nation’s 3,000 local health departments, spoke out today urging the Trump Administration to request and for Congress to pass emergency supplemental funding to sufficiently support the work of local health departments to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus.

Despite the relatively low number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to date, local health professionals are already working above and beyond the call of duty: working with health care providers to ensure they know how to assess and report suspected cases; contact tracing 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.

In far too many localities, that means diverting staff and limited resources from other projects — strategies that are not sustainable and which run the risk of compromising other critical work.

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.

On Monday, NACCHO joined other public health organizations, including the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) to formally request action on and inform the formation of an emergency supplemental request that would help expand and strengthen local, state, federal, and global capacity and coordination to adequately respond to this infectious disease outbreak. Read the letter here and the funding request here.

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