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Community Health Centers Respond to COVID-19

Virus spores floating in the air

Source: National Association of Community Health Centers
Published: March 3, 2020

Community Health Centers will play a critical role in the nationwide response strategy to the novel coronavirus, also known at COVID-19.  “Community Health Centers are the most direct connection from critical federal programs like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Main Street,” said Ronald Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).

“NACHC is in regular communications with the CDC Coronavirus Response Task Force. We are also providing communication to health centers, keeping them up to date on CDC recommendations, seeking to educate providers and the broader community.”

Because health centers are in virtually every community in our country, federal officials have become increasingly reliant on them to respond to public health challenges such as COVID-19. Health centers communicate regularly with local and state public health authorities, hospitals, and relief organizations.

“We are among America’s first responders in communities throughout the country on other major public health threats – H1N1, SARS, Ebola, and natural disasters,” Dr. Yee said.

With an increase in hospital closures across the country, health centers are becoming even more essential to the nation’s response strategy.

“Our focus is to regularly communicate with the health center field and keep them up to date on CDC recommendations,” Yee said. “It is important that we educate and not alarm and above all else ensure that health centers have the tools they need to implement clinical protocols in response to COVID-19 if necessary, working in partnership with local public health departments, organizations, and community stakeholders.”

“Prepare Not Panic: COVID-19 CDC Update and the Health Center Response,” in collaboration with the CDC Coronavirus Response Task Force. The webinar, scheduled for Friday, March 6, 2020 1:00 pm EST,  will provide information on how health centers can continue to prepare an organized response to COVID-19, including:

  • sharing clinical protocols nationwide
  • building systems in partnership with federal, state authorities, local public health departments, and community stakeholders to boost the health center response strategy.

Health centers also face the additional challenge of operating under a temporary funding measure. The lack of stable funding makes it challenging to recruit/hire providers, plan services, or expand capacity at a time when a sustained and robust public health response demands stable and long-term funding.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently called on Congressional leaders to make long-term funding for health centers a top priority.


Established in 1971, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) serves as the national voice for America’s Health Centers and as an advocate for health care access for the medically underserved and uninsured.