Leg Hall

Carney extends health emergency to protect hospital capacity

Charlie Megginson Government, Headlines

Leg Hall Gov. John Carney Public Health Emergency

Charlie Megginson/Delaware LIVE News

Not everyone is thrilled about Gov. John Carney’s decision to extend Delaware’s COVID-19 public health emergency for another 30 days.

The order “aims to help protect capacity at our health care facilities and it enables the state to maintain eligibility for federal funding or assistance,” said Charlie Quimby, a spokesman for the governor’s office.

Charlie Copeland

Charlie Copeland

Charlie Copeland, co-director of the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Center for Analysis of Delaware’s Economy and Government Spending, is among many who don’t see the point of continuing the emergency order.

“COVID is over and it’s been over for months,” he said.

Copeland is a former legislator who served as leader of the Senate Republican Caucus in 2007 and 2008. 

“Giving Gov. Carney another emergency extension is based on a lie that COVID is still a major health threat, or at least one that’s larger than any other respiratory virus, including the flu or the RSV that we’re seeing spike in children and others,” Copeland said.

The extension of the public health emergency is Carney’s 10th, not including the various state of emergency orders issued during the pandemic.

Quimby noted that there’s an ongoing staff shortage at health care institutions, and Carney and Division of Public Health officials already have warned that beds are filling up with cases of COVID, respiratory syncytial virus and the flu.

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Specifically, Quimby said, the order:

  • Allows the Delaware National Guard to take precautionary or responsive actions to help local authorities.
  • Allows the Department of Health and Social Services to take all steps to maintain the State of Delaware’s eligibility to receive federal funds or other federal assistance, such as enhanced pandemic EBT benefits.
  • Enables acute care hospitals to increase their bed capacity with approval from the Division of Public Health in order to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • Suspends some regulations, like bed capacity, long-term care staffing ratios, and prior authorization from insurance, in order to test patients for or treat COVID.

Under Delaware law, Public Health Emergency declarations must be renewed every 30 days. 

Copeland said the devil’s in the details as it relates to Carney’s seemingly never-ending health emergency.

During the pandemic, the U.S. Congress appropriated more than $5 trillion in aid. Of that, $745 billion went to state and local governments.

“And Gov. Carney wants to spend,” Copeland said.

“As long as Joe Biden says, ‘Oh, we’ve got hundreds of billions of dollars to just pass out because of a quote-unquote emergency, Gov. Carney is going to keep issuing emergency orders.”

Copeland said the D.C. money isn’t being used as effectively as it could be.

“If you said to me, ‘Hey, I’m gonna give you a bunch of free money to spend it on something you don’t need,’ do you take it,” Copeland asked.

“Or do you want to focus your time, effort and attention on the places where people need it, like mental health, like the fentanyl and drug overdose pandemic that we’re experiencing, like violence in the streets of Wilmington?”

Copeland said there’s nothing politicians love more than spending money. 

“That’s not a partisan statement,” he added.

Copeland said there are plenty of good reasons to have an emergency order, including bad weather.

“However, it should be for a limited period of time and then the legislature should have to come in and give authority to extend it,” he said.

“So there should be legislation that says you get a 90-day initial emergency, and then you have to come back to the legislature to get each and every extension.”

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