Local health departments are feeling the effects of the federal government shutdown, which began on Oct. 1, with direct impacts to programs that protect the health and safety of people in their communities. Health officials have shared the following examples of the implications of the shutdown in their preparedness activities:
- Mark Hodge, Montgomery County Health Department, Maryland: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not updating the Electronic Disease Notification System which provides state and local health departments with information about Class B conditions requiring follow up and the quarantine stations are operating with very limited staff. As a result, people are entering the U.S. with questionable chest x-rays and the local health departments are unable to follow up with them until the shutdown ends and the information is provided. Also, there is nobody to consult with at CDC regarding tuberculosis questions, lab results, etc.”
- E. Oscar Alleyne, Rockland County Department of Health, New York: “The Rockland County Department of Health, in collaboration with the Westchester County Department of Health, scheduled its Adult Immunization Coalition Conference to bring together 150 healthcare professionals across the 2 counties annually…One week away from the conference, our keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Kroger and a speaker from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Donna Pisani had to cancel due to the shutdown, significantly impacting the conference agenda and information exchange surrounding our health priorities around improving adult immunization rates.”
- Emily Gresham Wherle, Northern Kentucky Health Department: “If we are faced with a disease outbreak or a disaster, our first requests for assistance are going to be to the state health department, which is still operating normally. It is the outbreaks or disasters that stretch beyond resources that we have locally or in the state that worry us–we don’t know what level of support we’d be able to get while the CDC is partially shut down. The stories about the Salmonella outbreak illustrate this. Flu cases are similar. We can track flu locally and statewide during the shutdown, but we lack the ability to track nationwide case data. We are not seeing flu cases now, but this could change quickly.”
In addition to these immediate impacts, CDC and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) have shared how the shutdown will affect their preparedness plans. CDC has announced that it will be working at a significantly reduced capacity responding to outbreak investigations, processing laboratory samples, and maintaining its 24/7 emergency operations center. During the shutdown, CDC is also unable to support its annual seasonal influenza program and to provide updates related to disease treatment and prevention recommendations. At this time, ASPR is unable to fund activity related to medical countermeasures and the Hospital Preparedness Program, which would assist local health departments responding to surge following an emergency. ASPR anticipates delayed assistance to Colorado flooding victims and delayed preparation for response to an H7N9 influenza or a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus incident.