RICHMOND – A new national report card on states’ level of preparation to protect public health against disease, disaster, and other calamity once again lists Virginia among the states that are best prepared to respond to a large-scale emergency.

The report – Ready or Not 2021: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism – includes Virginia among states in the highest performing tier based on an assessment of key emergency preparedness indicators. Virginia was likewise ranked in the top tier of states in the Ready or Not 2020 report, and was ranked among the top states in overall emergency preparedness rating in the 2020 National Health Security Preparedness Index report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Colorado School of Public Health.

The 2021 report also identifies Virginia as the “most prepared” among states determined to be “more vulnerable” in public health emergency situations.

“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented previously unthinkable challenges for health care providers, first responders, public safety personnel, state officials, and so many other professionals whose work has been critical to the response effort,” said Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) President and CEO Sean T. Connaughton. “Throughout this 14-month and counting ordeal, Virginia health care providers have been supported by, and supported, our partners in state government – standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the shared work to protect community health. While no state has been spared by this viral outbreak, it is rewarding to see that

Virginia has weathered this storm in part due to investments and preparation by hospitals, health care providers, and government agencies to be ready for major emergencies.”

Among other factors, Virginia is highly rated in the report due to:

•Participation in the Nurse Licensure Compact that enables qualified, licensed nurses to practice in other states under certain conditions;

•Virginia hospitals’ 100 percent participation rate in regional health care coalitions (through the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program [VHEMP] partnership with VHHA and the Virginia Department of Health [VDH]) that are positioned to help deploy resources and support frontline providers during public health emergencies;•State accreditation with the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMPA);

•A strong degree of public health emergency readiness even in a climate of declining public health funding.Virginia hospitals continue to support the Commonwealth’s pandemic response efforts, having treated and discharged more than 51,000 COVID-19 patients while serving roughly 1,000 patients who are still hospitalized due to the virus.

Hospitals have also administered more than 1 million vaccine doses, added nearly 3,700 beds to increase treatment capacity during the pandemic, supported effort to increase overall ventilator capacity, served as a national leader in the use of emerging therapeutic treatments, and developed innovative staffing and workforce solutions in response to the pandemic.

Although Virginia is among the more populous states in the nation, the Commonwealth has had comparatively low rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, and it is thirteenth among states in the percentage of vaccine doses administered. These outcomes are a reflection of a stable health care delivery system with a strong focus on emergency planning and preparation in Virginia.

Community hospitals are actively involved in planning for, and responding to, emergency situations such as natural disasters, manmade incidents, and disease outbreaks, as evidenced by the coordinated state response effort to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. In the Commonwealth, this work and engagement with state, federal, and local partners is facilitated through VHEMP, which was established in 2002 as a partnership between VHHA and VDH to help foster collaborative planning efforts between health care facilities, first responders, and community partners at the local and regional level.

The Ready or Not 2021: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism report is intended to give policymakers data that can be used to support improvements in state emergency readiness. It calls for $4.5 billion in annual spending to rebuild the public health workforce and invest in public health infrastructure nationwide.