Bowser reinstates public health emergency to address hospital staff shortages

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Bowser terminated the city’s previous public health emergency in July because of increased vaccination rates and lower infection rates after first instating the measure at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Mayor Muriel Bowser reinstated a public health emergency in the District Tuesday, allowing hospitals to better manage an influx in COVID-19 patients in light of recent staffing shortages.

The public health emergency lasts until Jan. 26 and allows hospitals to use out-of-state medical licenses and increase available staff, according to a report from NBC Washington. Bowser’s order is the city’s latest move to mitigate the effects of the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, which has continued to accelerate and limit public activity in D.C.

Bowser relaunched the city’s indoor mask mandate last month, and the District will start requiring proof of vaccination for entry to restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues Saturday.

“By declaring a public health emergency, the District and our healthcare partners can continue to respond expeditiously and safely to COVID-19 and its ongoing and changing impacts,” Bowser’s order reads.

The D.C. Hospital Association, a conglomerate of District-based hospitals including the GW Hospital, asked Bowser to implement the public health emergency last week, citing depleted hospital staffs that were struggling to handle longer lines than normal at D.C. emergency rooms because of the higher COVID-19 caseload. D.C. data shows that 37 of the city’s 345 intensive care unit beds were available Monday, the lowest count since August.

Bowser terminated the city’s previous public health emergency in July because of increased vaccination rates and lower infection rates after first instating the emergency at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

“Given the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the vast rise in new cases and visits to the emergency rooms, continuing deaths from COVID-19 and staffing shortages at medical facilities due in part to staff being out with COVID-19, the District must declare a limited public health emergency to appropriately protect public health,” Bowser’s recent order reads.

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