What Happens to Public Health Agencies During Government Closure

The government is open again for now, but there could be another closure in three weeks if the congressional talks don’t go well. During the stop, civil servants and responsibilities are assigned according to their importance. For example, federal courts are not shutting down , and NASA is shutting down Instagram . So what’s going on with health and safety agencies?

Still works normally during shutdown

  • Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP will work as usual .
  • The same will be true for Indian Health Services clinics and veterans’ hospitals.
  • The EPA has the means to operate “for a limited time.”
  • Patients in hospitals funded by the National Institutes of Health will continue to receive care.
  • Foodborne and influenza outbreak response, recall of high-risk foods and criminal investigations will continue in cases where the agency believes public health is at risk.
  • Food and medical supplies imported into the United States will continue to be screened.
  • The same is true for food products, which are routinely inspected by the USDA .
  • FDA action is “necessary to address immediate threats to the safety of human life.”
  • Solving the problem of a shortage of intravenous saline bags still caused by Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico (many of the intravenous bags in the US came from a facility there).

Paused during shutdown

  • Clinical trials conducted by the National Institutes of Health are unable to admit new patients .
  • In many cases, “routine” inspections by the FDA are not carried out.
  • “Most” FDA activities have been suspended.
  • Most laboratory testing and outbreak surveillance will not occur, except for those that pose an immediate threat to public health. They and the emergency operations center will operate at “significantly less” capacity .
  • New drug applications and other “regulations” requiring the applicant to pay a fee should be suspended because the FDA cannot accept money during closure.
  • Many FDA and CDC functions will be slower and more difficult to operate, so even things that are still technically happening can be difficult due to a lack of staff or information.


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