An extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration through the end of 2022 is critical to ensure long-term care providers have the necessary resources to respond to the ongoing crisis, the leader of the nation’s largest nursing home association said Tuesday. 

The current PHE declaration is set to expire April 16. Federal policy only allows the Department of Health and Human Services to extend it for 90 days at a time. HHS leadership has previously said states would receive a 60 day notice prior to the expiration of the PHE. 

Extending the declaration through 2022 would allow long-term and post-acute care providers to continue offering the most “efficient and effective care possible” to seniors, argued Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.  

Parkinson also noted the Biden administration is pushing for additional COVID-19 funding from Congress, while Pfizer and Moderna are seeking approval for another booster shot. Both situations signal that “the pandemic is far from over,” he said. 

“The PHE ensures our healthcare system, including long-term care, has the policies and resources it needs to address this ongoing pandemic,” Parkinson wrote in a letter Tuesday to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Now is not the time to let crucial supports and flexibilities necessary to combat the virus end.”

He also urged the federal government to prioritize long-term care for access to urgently needed resources, like COVID-19 testing and treatments, in addition to extending the emergency designation. 

“If we have learned anything over the past two years, it is that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to this virus, and therefore, deserve the greatest support and highest prioritization,” Parkinson concluded. “Our caregivers have worked tirelessly day after day to protect and provide for their residents, and they need steady access to resources during this pandemic and moving forward.”