Kentucky health leaders, lawmakers discuss lessons learned from COVID-19 emergency

State health leaders talk about end of COVID emergency and impact on health care and Medicaid during legislative committee meeting
Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 11:54 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - State health leaders came before legislators on Friday to discuss the end of the federal COVID-19 emergency.

As the pandemic turns endemic and federal support from the national health emergency winds down, state health officials are looking into what lessons they have learned as a result of the global emergency and what could help them if another were to strike.

Deputy Clinical Affairs Commissioner Dr. Connie White highlighted some of what could have been done differently in response to this pandemic.

“We were getting every Covid test in the state of Kentucky results faxed to us on a fax machine and then someone had to collect those and hand enter that into a database,” said Dr. White.

However, they’ve since taken significant strides to modernize the public health field by creating an online portal for immunization registry, getting more labs and clinics into reporting diseases electronically and expanding telehealth options.

Dr. White also says their supply of gloves, masks, ventilators, and more has now doubled.

But other resources, like tests, will be the responsibility of local health departments with the loss of federal funding, and vaccines and other treatments will shift to the public marketplace.

State health leaders say even with the emergency ending their work on this virus will continue for a long time.

“We’re going to be studying this for 20-30 years,” said Secretary Eric Friedlander, Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “There were good decisions made and bad decisions made, and we’re going to probably parse that out.”

Some concerns that still remain are what access impoverished communities have to vaccines once they’re commercialized and what the fiscal impact will look like for the state as this virus sticks around, but the federal dollars don’t.

Their questions remain open-ended for now.

Dr. White says a few federal grants have been extended to last until the summer of 2024. Those will go towards supporting things like health equity and disaster preparedness.