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HHS Extends Public Health Emergency Declaration

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

On July 23, 2020, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration has been extended for another 90 days by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The declaration lasts for the duration of the emergency or 90 days but maybe extended by Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services. The first determination of a Public Health Emergency was issued on by Secretary Azar on January 27, 2020, nationwide. It has been subsequentially renewed several times. To view the notice, please visit: 

Under section 319 of the Public Health Service (PHS) Act the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may, determine that: a) a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency (PHE); or b) that a public health emergency, including significant outbreaks of infectious disease or bioterrorist attacks, otherwise exists.

Duration and Notification

The declaration lasts for the duration of the emergency or 90 days, but maybe extended by the Secretary. Congress must be notified of the declaration within 48 hours, and relevant agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, must be kept informed.

Following a section 319 declaration, the Secretary can:

  • Take appropriate actions in response to the emergency consistent with other authorities, including: making grants; entering into contracts; and conducting and supporting investigations into the cause, treatment, or prevention of the disease or disorder. 
  • Access “no-year” funds appropriated to the Public Health Emergency Fund to rapidly respond to immediate needs resulting from the PHE, or to rapidly respond to a potential PHE when the Secretary determines that there is a significant potential for a PHE.  
  • Enable the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control Director to access the Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund (when funds are so appropriated) to prevent, prepare for, or respond to an infectious disease emergency, either when the Secretary has declared a public health emergency or when the Secretary determines that the emergency has significant potential to imminently occur and potential on occurrence, to affect national security or the health and security of US citizens, domestically, or internationally. 
  • Grant extensions or waive sanctions relating to submission of data or reports required under laws administered by the Secretary, when the Secretary determines that, wholly or partially as a result of a public health emergency, individuals or public or private entities are unable to comply with deadlines for such data or reports. 
  • Waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule requirements. 
  • Adjust Medicare reimbursement for certain Part B drugs. 
  • Make temporary (up to one year or the duration of the emergency) appointments of personnel to positions that directly respond to the public health emergency when the urgency of filling positions prohibits examining applicants through the competitive process.
  • Use funds from the fiscal year 2019 appropriation to HHS that are available for salaries and expenses of HHS employees to pay travel and related expenses of an employee or family member when the employee is assigned to duty in the U.S. or in a U.S. territory during a period and in a location that are the subject of a public health emergency declaration, and travel is necessary to obtain medical care for an illness, injury, or medical condition that cannot be adequately addressed in that location at that time.
  • Enable the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary, to deploy military trauma care providers providing care at high-acuity trauma centers pursuant to grants awarded under section 1291 of the PHS Act.
  • Waive certain Ryan White HIV/AIDS program requirements (section 2683 of the PHS Act). 
  • Modify practice of telemedicine. 
  • On a State by State basis, as the circumstances of the emergency reasonably require and for the period of the emergency, grant an extension or waive application deadlines or compliance with any other requirement of certain SAMHSA grants. Such grants include those authorized under sections 521, 1911, or 1921 of the PHS Act. This authority also applies to allotments authorized under Public Law 99-319.
  • Allow State and local governments to access the General Services Administration (GSA) Federal supply schedule when using federal grant funds.
  • Temporarily reassign state and local personnel. 
  • Limit liability of health care professionals who are members of the Medical Reserve Corps or professionals included in the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals responding to a PHE in the initial 90 days so that such professionals shall be subject only to the State liability laws in which the professional has been deployed to the PHE and only to the extent permitted under the laws of the State in which care is provided.   
  • Determine a waiver of Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requirements is necessary. 
  • Waive certain requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).
  • Enable the Department of Labor (DOL) to issue dislocated worker program grants for disaster relief employment pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 3225.


Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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