In a presidential declaration signed Friday night, the White House has declared swine flu a national emergency, a move which allows hospitals to move emergency room off-site in order to protect uninfected patients and speed treatment.
With the disease more prevalent than ever and vaccine production below the 120 millions doses that had been projected to be available by mid-October. From the AP:
Health authorities say more than 1,000 people in the United States, including almost 100 children, have died from the strain of flu known as H1N1, and 46 states have widespread flu activity. So far only 11 million doses have gone out to health departments, doctor's offices and other providers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials.
Administration officials said the declaration was a pre-emptive move designed to make decisions easier when they need to be made. Officials said the move was not in response to any single development.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now has authority to bypass federal rules when opening alternative care sites, such as offsite hospital centers at schools or community centers if hospitals seek permission.
Some hospitals have opened drive-thrus and drive-up tent clinics to screen and treat swine flu patients. The idea is to keep infectious people out of regular emergency rooms and away from other sick patients.
120 million doses projected, 11 million delivered. That's not a good batting average.