President Obama declared H1N1 flu a national emergency on Saturday in order to help overwhelmed health-care facilities absorb the surge of new patients with the flu. Obama’s proclamation allows the secretary of Health to approve individual waivers that will exempt hospitals and other medical facilities from certain daily regulations that get in the way of treating the flu quickly and effectively. (The waivers must still be requested individually by hospitals.) The Obama administration said that elevating the pandemic to national-emergency status has nothing to do with new medical information about the flu’s threats, but rather is meant to make things easier for hospitals and other health-care facilities. "The H1N1 is moving rapidly, as expected. By the time regions or health-care systems recognize they are becoming overburdened, they need to implement disaster plans quickly," said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.
PANDEMIC Harry Cabluck / AP Photo