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Public Health Care Systems’ Response to COVID-19

Since the beginning of the pandemic, California’s 21 public health care systems have been integral to the State’s COVID-19 response. In the early days, they launched massive testing sites and vaccination campaigns in their communities from individual clinic offices to large-scale amphitheaters.

Responding to each surge, public health care systems quickly and nimbly redesigned care to meet the moment by expanding the use of telehealth visits, converting storage units and parking lots to clinical care settings, and conducting street outreach to care for those most at-risk.

As California continued to contract COVID-19 and new variants emerged, public health care systems remained vital hubs in their communities with a stronger commitment than ever to their mission to serve all. 

CAPH’s Advocacy Role During COVID-19

CAPH worked closely with leaders at the California Department of Public Health to inform the development of COVID-19 emergency waivers and hospital operating flexibilities that were crucial in allowing public health care systems to better care for their patients – from addressing staffing shortfalls to creating more physical spaces for clinical care. CAPH also advocated for federal funding sources, including Provider Relief Funds, Federal Emergency Management Agency support, and an extension of California’s 1115 Medicaid Waiver. At the state level, CAPH worked with the Newsom Administration and legislative leaders to provide a one-time $300 million allocation in the 2021-22 State Budget to help offset the increased costs of caring for a subset of Medi-Cal patients hospitalized with COVID-19.  

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, including the impact of new variants, continued state and federal support and flexibilities is necessary for public health care systems to fulfill their safety net mission. CAPH remains focused on ensuring our members have the resources and support needed to care for those most in need.