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Request to President Trump to Declare a Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus

The Honorable Donald Trump
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of APLA Health in Los Angeles, I’m writing to urgently request that you issue a federal declaration of emergency due to the growing crisis of COVID-19. In addition to the national public health emergency declaration already issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a federal emergency declaration will unlock a greater array of tools that California health care providers can use to contain the disease.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a State of Emergency to help the state prepare for broader spread of COVID-19, and our network of 1,400 community health centers (CHCs) stands ready to assist in that effort. California’s Medicaid State Plan currently prohibits health centers from delivering and billing for telephonic services. In the wake of recent natural disasters in the state, last year the California legislature passed AB1494, which would allow health centers to bill for services delivered through alternative care models (e.g. telephonic visits) during declared statewide emergencies.  However, this law cannot be implemented until both the Secretary of Health and Human Services issues a public health emergency declaration and the President issues a federal emergency declaration.

We know that to fight this disease we must be smart about limiting exposure while continuing to ensure Californians receive adequate health care services.  Because community health centers provide health care services to 1 in 3 Medi-Cal recipients and 1 in 6 Californians, they can be a huge part of our state’s proactive response to containing and controlling the spread of COVID-19.

APLA Health serves low-income eligible populations through three Federally Qualified Health Centers in Los Angeles County.  The populations we serve suffer as all low-income populations do from a broad array of chronic conditions including heart disease and diabetes that can exacerbate coronavirus infections, leading to very severe symptoms, hospitalizations and sometimes fatal infections.

As one of the nation’s oldest AIDS service organizations, APLA Health also focuses on populations at risk and living with HIV.  Needless to say, patients with comprised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and, depending on their health status, may suffer severe symptoms from the infection.

As the national response to the coronavirus accelerates, telephonic visits to our health centers may become an ever more important means to advise, counsel, test and treat vulnerable patients who report symptoms and require medical attention.

As of the writing of this letter, there are 2 confirmed deaths in California and 168 positive cases. In partnership with the state and local and county health departments, California’s CHCs are working tirelessly to support the COVID-19 response and limit the growth of these statistics.

We stand in solidarity with your Administration, our state leadership, and the country in working to stop the spread of COVID-19.

For these reasons, APLA Health urges you to declare a federal state of emergency and allow California to utilize innovative health care methods in this time of crisis. 

Sincerely,


Craig E. Thompson
Chief Executive Officer

CC:  Vice President Mike Pence, White House COVID-19 Task Force Chair
Administrator Seema Varma, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, White House COVID-19 Task Force Participant