Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.
"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.
"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."
The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.
Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development."
Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.
The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.
Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.
Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the .
I know I may catch hell for saying this, but I just cannot get all worked up about H1N1. When I look at the numbers, especially in light of the fact that there are 300 million of us, I just don’t see what all the panic is about.
I probably won’t get a H1N1 shot. I never get a regular flu vaccine and if I do get the flu, I normally shake it in less than 48 hours. Plus add to the fact that I mostly work from home, I don’t really see a threat for myself. But that is just me.
Quite frankly, I have found the handling of H1N1 to be overkill from day one. It isn’t like people are dropping like flies all over the place. Yes, H1N1 does have a few unusual aspects but it isn’t killing people at a rate infinity superior to the regular flu.
I am curious though, what are your thoughts and plans for action concerning H1N1?