The Catholic Health Association of the United States joined 17 other national organizations urging the Trump administration and Congress to take immediate and coordinated action to address the critical needs of capacity and supply in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"America faces an unprecedented challenge with COVID-19," said the March 18 letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House task force on the coronavirus, and congressional leaders. CHA released the letter March 19.

"We know these are serious and significant times," the group added, "but we also know that immediate, collective action -- by the private sector and all levels of government -- to address the critical needs of capacity and supply can help resolve this challenge."

The health care groups emphasized the need to increase medical capacity and testing, enhance the national supply of critical medical equipment, protect frontline care providers and technicians, and improve coordination in treating patients.

They stressed the following priorities:

-- Ensuring a stable and continuous supply of medical supplies by moving quickly to increase the production and distribution of items such as gowns, gloves, masks, testing materials and respiratory machines.

-- Strengthening provider capacity by identifying and modifying properties and sites that can be used to deliver care, encouraging patients to use alternate sites of care such as telehealth, and providing regulatory flexibility for health professionals.

-- Assuring there is continued access to critical medications and related goods, and that there are minimal supply chain disruptions.

The group represents the nation's doctors, hospitals, nurses and other health professionals, specialty and post-acute facilities, clinical laboratories, health insurance providers, biopharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers and distributors -- all of whom said they stood united in their urgency to fight COVID-19.

"The private sector will deploy every necessary resource to match this moment," they wrote, stressing that it is "absolutely essential for a coordinated government response" to leverage the full force of the president's declaration of a national emergency.

"We are committed to working with state, federal and local officials in every way possible, from supporting our public health heroes, to offering specific policy and regulatory changes" and assisting governors, legislatures, Congress and the administration.

"This moment challenges all of us," they added, saying they would "do everything possible to ensure that the private sector and government collaborate and cooperate on behalf of the American people. We will deliver by working together."

In a March 19 statement about the letter, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad, CHA's president and CEO, said the Catholic association is committed to working with its members and with health care and government leaders to address the many challenges of COVID-19 as it continues to affect more Americans.

"CHA and our partners from other health care organizations recognize the critical importance of the private sector and the government joining together for an urgent national response to this public health emergency," she said in a statement.

"Our members are on the front lines caring for those affected and we must do everything we can to ensure they have the necessary resources to treat patients and be protected while delivering care," she added.