News Release

Physicians Say “Tripledemic” Should Have Been Declared a Pediatric Emergency


Emergency and pediatric resident physicians argue that at the height of the “tripledemic,” the federal government should have exercised its power to declare a national emergency in pediatric health while viral illness spiked in children and pediatric hospital departments were overwhelmed across the country. In a Health Affairs article, physicians Charles Sanky and Estefania Chavez urge the government to “declare health emergencies every time our health care system cannot meet new demands, including right now with the sharp spike in viral illness among children.”

    Sanky is an emergency resident physician and a population health researcher at the Mount Sinai Health System.

    Chavez is a pediatric resident physician at NYP-Columbia Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

The authors argue that an emergency declaration would allow for emergency funding, regulatory flexibility, and innovation. In particular, Sanky said that emergency resources allow health systems to “gain additional staff, open additional units/spaces for patient beds, and affordably obtain crucial medications and devices.” 

Sanky told the Institute for Public Accuracy that the recent prevalence of RSV, COVID-19 and influenza have “sharply decreased” from their levels just a few months ago. But in the midst of the peak of the “tripledemic,” Sanky said, the “strain on health systems was remarkable.” In these sorts of situations, he said, we need “nimble, resilient systems of hospital care.” But “current policy, regulatory standards and models of healthcare financing” have made that nearly impossible. “As a result, declaring a public health emergency is one of the last tools we have in our toolkits.” 

Sanky noted that declaring “emergency after emergency” can be “psychologically taxing to the public” and “unsustainable.” But without “large-scale systemic changes in health service delivery,” emergency declarations work as necessary and important “stopgap solutions.”