The White House announced Monday that 40 rural clinics across Alabama are to get portions of $10.3 million in federal aid to help fight COVID-19 and the more contagious delta variant.
Alabama’s portion of the latest $35.3 million in federal aid is aimed at strengthening the response to COVID-19 in rural areas nationwide, according to the press release. Rural clinics play a critical role in providing health care for rural residents, and are key to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in those areas, health experts say.
“When you look at the rural communities, this is who they trust and like to get care from, so it’s a good thing for the state of Alabama,” said Jamey Durham, bureau director with the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Prevention, Promotion, and Support, speaking to APR on Tuesday. “It’s a win, win for this state and gives us the opportunity of continuing the expansion of our reach with the COVID virus and trying to mitigate it.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Health Resources and Services Administration is to provide 40 rural hospitals across Alabama with portions of the $35.3 million to maintain or increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing for rural residents and tailor mitigation efforts to reflect the needs of local communities, according to the release.
“The Biden Administration recognizes the important role that small rural hospitals have in closing the equity gap and ensuring that rural Americans can protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “Today’s funding will help small rural hospitals continue to serve their communities in this critical role by expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigation efforts.”
The Biden administration in June announced $424.7 million for more than 4,200 rural health clinics nationwide to combat COVID-19. Of that aid, 108 rural clinics in Alabama received a portion of $10.8 million.
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health is to administer the federal funding to eligible rural hospitals across Alabama.
“Small rural hospitals—those with fewer than 50 beds and Critical Access Hospitals—are key health care access points and trusted community resources,” the release states.
“Our state-based SHIP grantees are important partners in helping to support small rural hospitals,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa in a statement. “HRSA is committed to mitigating the spread of the virus in rural areas by supporting and empowering local providers to tailor their responses to COVID-19 to what works for their communities.”
Alabama has the lowest percentage of COVID-19 vaccinated residents in the nation, and new cases and hospitalizations are on the rise.
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s risk dashboard labels 26 of Alabama’s 67 counties as having a “very high risk” for the spread of COVID-19, up from six three weeks ago.