The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) in a Dec. 28 letter to the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) urged the agency head to extend the public health emergency beyond its Jan. 23, 2021, expiration date. The association said this would allow health care providers to continue to offer the most efficient and effective care possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

AHCA/NCAL President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Parkinson outlined the steps and measures that should be in place before the public health emergency can be allowed to expire. These include:

1. The supply chain is able to continuously meet the increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to keep health care workers safe in treating patients with and without COVID-19, and able to meet the demand for laboratory testing supplies and treatment medications necessary to safely and effectively treat COVID-19.

2. The number of laboratory tests administered per day in the U.S. exceeds 500,000 per day, and the number of COVID-19-positive test results is equal to or fewer than 5,000 per day for a period of at least 14 days.

3. The number of patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the U.S. is fewer than 5,000 per day for a period of 14 days and no more than 10 percent of those patients are in any one city or region.

4. The number of deaths per day from COVID-19 in the U.S. is fewer than 500 for a period of 14 days.

5. Vaccine administration has achieved or exceeded the 70 percent needed for widespread immunity.

“With the current surges and projected additional surges, we anticipate the challenges associated with COVID-19 that our members and communities face every day will continue throughout several months, and potentially another entire year as the vaccine is administered,” Parkinson said.

He said even though “remarkable progress” in combatting the pandemic continues to be made, now is not the time to pull back, but instead reinforce the need for a strong response from nursing homes and assisted living communities “as we work through the coming months.”

“We greatly look forward to administration of the vaccine but understand all too well the lengthy time horizon for reaching the needed 70 percent for herd immunity. Until we reach that moment, our members, with your continued assistance and waiver flexibility, will remain ready and prepared to manage any future COVID-19 surges,” Parkinson said.

Here is a link to the letter.