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Capitol Correspondence - 07.14.20

Administration Assures Governors That Virus Emergency Declaration Will Remain in Effect

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As reported by Politico:

“Vice President Mike Pence and HHS Secretary Alex Azar strongly indicated to governors that the Trump administration will extend the coronavirus public health emergency before it expires later this month, providing the firmest assurances yet the administration won’t pull back the declaration as infections continue to surge.

In a private call between White House coronavirus task force officials and state leaders, Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, raised the issue of the expiring public health emergency. Azar said it was likely the emergency would be renewed but stopped short of a firm commitment, according to three sources familiar with the call.

Pence added that the state leaders should be “at ease” that an extension of the emergency declaration is in the works, two of those sources said — though one cautioned that the White House has yet to finalize the decision.

‘I don’t know of any circumstance — I can’t imagine why that wouldn’t be renewed. I’d be quite surprised if that were not renewed,’ Azar added, according to one source.

Governors and health care officials for weeks have been pushing the Trump administration to commit to an extension of the public health emergency, with vast resources on the line. The administration has leveraged emergency powers to allow for a massive scale-up of telehealth visits and emergency use of new drugs and tests, among other measures. The emergency declaration has also allowed underfunded state and local health deployments to redeploy federally funded personnel to focus on the virus response, as well as new flexibility for government health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Public health emergencies must be renewed by HHS every 90 days, and the coronavirus declaration is set to expire July 25. The emergency was first issued in January, shortly after the coronavirus emerged in China, and it was renewed previously in late April.

[…]

An extension would last until late October, shortly before Election Day. Public health groups, which warn the coronavirus will challenge the country for months to come, said efforts to fight the virus would be hampered by the withdrawal of the government’s emergency powers.”