Alaska shifts to crisis standards of care amid influx of COVID-19 patients

Alaska shifts to crisis standards of care amid influx of COVID-19 patients
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Alaska on Wednesday activated crisis standards of care as hospitals become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, which essentially sets emergency guidelines for rationing care. 

According to Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services, crisis standards of care "give ethical guidelines to health care providers when they have too many patients and not enough resources to care for them all."

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-Alaska) announced that the crisis standards were enabled through an addendum to Alaska's existing COVID-19 public health emergency order.

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“This addendum to the existing Public Health Emergency Order, authorized by House Bill 76, provides guidance to Alaska’s hospitals, health care providers and local health authorities in support of crisis standards of care should they be needed for a facility or community,” said Adam Crum, Alaska's Commissioner of Health and Social Services.

“Let me be clear: this is not a disaster declaration, nor a mandate, and does not require any new legislation. The goal of this addendum is to provide support and guidance to our state’s health care providers as they continue to care for Alaskans during these unprecedented times," Crum added.

The crisis standards will remain in place until Crum rescinds them or the public health emergency ends, whichever comes first.

In his announcement, Dunleavy also stated that around 300 registered nurses and over 100 nursing assistants will be going to Alaska to help in the state's health care facilities. The health care workers will be going as part of a $87 million contract between Alaska and the General Services Administration.

“We asked Alaskans for the last year and a half to work together on the challenge posed by COVID-19,” Dunleavy said. “Our hospitals need help with staffing, supplies, and Alaskans to do their part. Today’s announcement brings qualified health professionals when we need it and provides Alaskans with the tools we need to manage through this difficult time.”

According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, there are currently just over 200 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alaska. Around 50 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Idaho and Montana have also recently enacted crisis standards of care to cope with rising cases and hospitalizations driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.