Taking One Step Forward and Two Back

During a recent 60 Minutes interview, President Biden declared that the Covid pandemic “is over.” However, the president’s own senior health officials quickly noted that hundreds of people are still dying every day, and the virus is still able to evolve into new variants that will “defy standard public health mechanisms for addressing an outbreak.” 

Moreover, it’s expected that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) will renew its public health emergency declaration past the current October 13 deadline. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold human suffering, significantly impaired children’s learning, inflicted extensive economic damage, and put enormous pressure and stress on our nation’s healthcare infrastructure. 

While extending the public health emergency raises many complicated and controversial issues, one of the bright spots of the federal emergency response has been agencies granting federal “flexibilities” in law and policy, thus reducing government delays and red tape. 

Most people are probably familiar with the relatively easy availability of telehealth during the pandemic. Today, many states have made flexibilities around telehealth permanent. 

However, many more temporary policies should be considered for permanent status. 

For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily allowed marketing of medical devices that had not undergone FDA’s premarket process –

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