Doctors ask Biden to declare emergency over RSV surge among children


Kids Virus Surge
A sign stands outside Seattle Children’s Hospital on March 18, 2020, in Seattle. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Elaine Thompson/AP

Doctors ask Biden to declare emergency over RSV surge among children

Video Embed

Pediatricians are calling on President Joe Biden to declare an emergency in response to an “alarming surge” in respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, that has been straining children’s hospitals across the country.

The Children’s Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics urged Biden to issue an emergency declaration this week that would give hospitals more flexibility to manage the influx of patients and free up federal resources, such as those provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


“We need emergency funding support and flexibilities along the same lines of what was provided to respond to COVID surges,” read a letter from the groups to Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

An emergency declaration would temporarily lift certain requirements under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act to speed up patient transfers, allow for more telehealth flexibilities, and waive Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program rules to make it easier for providers to share resources.

The American College of Emergency Physicians told the Biden administration earlier this month that emergency departments were at a “breaking point” across the country, inundated with pediatric respiratory illnesses, COVID-19, and flu cases. The organization, along with 30 other medical associations and patient advocacy groups implored the administration to find immediate and long-term solutions to the problem.

Hospitals typically see a wave of RSV cases each fall, though this year “unprecedented levels” of RSV coupled with an early rise in flu cases are pushing hospitals to their capacity.

More than three-fourths of pediatric hospital beds across the country are full, according to data from the HHS. Over a dozen states have reported that more than 80% of their pediatric beds are occupied, including Rhode Island, Kentucky, and Utah.

Earlier this week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued an emergency order to give hospitals additional flexibilities to staff pediatric beds to respond to a rise in pediatric hospitalization rates due to RSV, becoming the first state to do so.


RSV, which is spread through contact with an infected person or touching contaminated surfaces, presents itself as a cold-like illness in most cases, though it can cause severe illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, especially for children younger than 5 with underlying conditions like a weakened immune system.

Parents are advised to monitor their child’s symptoms and reach out to their pediatrician to keep them informed of their child’s status. If a child starts experiencing more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or eating and drinking, parents should seek urgent or emergency care.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

Related Content