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Obama Declares Swine Flu a National Emergency

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Obama Declares Swine Flu a National Emergency



October 24, 2009

By Philip Elliott



WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, giving his health chief the power to let hospitals move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect noninfected patients.


Photo: Nathan Groski, 9-months, gets the swine flu vaccine as his father Aaron Groski holds him during a vaccine clinic at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Va., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009. (AP /Jose Luis Magana)


The declaration, signed Friday night and announced Saturday, comes with the disease more prevalent than ever in the country and production delays undercutting the government's initial, optimistic estimates that as many as 120 million doses of the vaccine could be available by mid-October.


Health authorities say more than 1,000 people in the United States, including almost 100 children, have died from the 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 chief 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.


Hospitals could modify patient rules – for example, requiring them to give less information during a hectic time – to quicken access to treatment, with government approval, under the declaration.


It also addresses a financial question for hospitals – reimbursement for treating people at sites not typically approved. For instance, federal rules do not allow hospitals to put up treatment tents more than 200 yard away from the doors; if the tents are 300 yards or more away, typically federal dollars won't go to pay for treatment.


Administration officials said those rules might not make sense while fighting the swine flu, especially if the best piece of pavement is in the middle of a parking lot and some medical centers already are putting in place parts of their emergency plans.


The national emergency declaration was the second of two steps needed to give Sebelius extraordinary powers during a crisis.



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What? A national emergency, but the First Daughters aren't getting the h1n1 flu shot.


Hey, wait a freakin minute here............




October 8, 2009 <H2 _extended="true">First Daughters Not Vaccinated Against H1N1</H2>President Obama's school age daughters have not been vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says the vaccine is not available to them based on their risk.


The Centers for Disease Control recommend that children ages 6 months through 18 years of age receive a vaccination against the H1N1 flu virus. At this time only children with chronic medical conditions are receiving the vaccination because their immune system is not strong enough to fight off the strain. The CDC also says a regular seasonal flu shot does not protect against the virus.



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