The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association are calling on the Biden administration to declare an emergency to a support a national response to an "alarming surge of pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza."
The organizations say they sent a letter this week to Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra as "[s]ignificant capacity issues in pediatric hospitals and communities require flexibilities that can only be provided through a formal emergency declaration by the President and the HHS Secretary."
"President Biden and Secretary Becerra have been invaluable leaders to children’s hospitals across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we implore them to renew their commitment to pediatric health care and give us the resources necessary to control the ongoing RSV and flu surge with the continuing children’s mental health emergency," CHA CEO Mark Wietecha said in a statement. "Our system is stretched to its limit and without immediate attention the crisis will only worsen."
The organizations say emergency declarations "would allow waiver of certain Medicare, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) requirements so that hospitals, physicians, and other health care providers may share resources in a coordinated effort to care for their community and have access to emergency funding to keep up with the growing demands, specifically related to workforce support."
Mark Del Monte, CEO of the AAP, called the requests "urgent" because of the ongoing "crisis unfolding across the country."
"The letter also calls on the administration to mitigate the supply, equipment and drug shortages that also threaten the ability to provide consistent and reliable care for pediatric patient," the AAP said.
RSV is described as a very common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most people recover within two weeks — but RSV can be serious, especially for the very young or very old and those with compromised immune systems.
The UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh has set up a tent outside its facility to handle the influx of young patients.
"Over the past six to eight weeks — maybe even a little bit longer — we have seen a huge increase in the number of children coming into our emergency department and the vast majority of them are coming in with respiratory illnesses and of those, many of them have RSV as the virus that is sort of triggering their respiratory illness," Raymond Pitetti, director of its Emergency Department, said in a video posted on Twitter.
"The tent is a space that gives us eight to 10 more beds... if we start to see a major spike throughout the day and we have the resources to do it, we are going to open up the tent," he added.