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COVID-19 Update for Monday, April 12

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania state government as of 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 12th.

Governor Wolf

Effective Tuesday, April 13, all Pennsylvania adults will be eligible to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.  This is six days earlier than the administration previously stated.  Learn more from this Wolf administration news release.  The announcement does not affect the city of Philadelphia, which intends to follow to its plan to broaden eligibility next Monday, April 19.

Department of Health

  • The Department of Health has updated its infection prevention and control recommendations for health care settings that was last revised in September of 2020.  Changes and additions are noted in red throughout the document.
  • The Department of Health has announced a partnership with Latino Connection and Highmark Blue Shield to launch the first statewide COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic tour to provide vaccinations and education targeting minority and underserved communities.  The program will include mobile units to conduct a statewide vaccination and education tour; a Facebook page to register for vaccines; and 100 events in corner stores and bodegas where individuals who do not have access to the internet, or who are in need of assistance, can pre-register for vaccines.  Learn more from this Department of Health news release.
  • The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Department of Health announced the opening of a regional vaccination clinic on Penn State’s University Park campus in Centre County.  Initially this site is expected to administer 600 doses a day.  Go here for information on location, hours, and how to sign up for vaccines.
  • The Department of Health has established a new free COVID-19 test site in Monroe County.  The site will be open through April 18.  For information about hours and location, go here.

Pennsylvania State MapDepartment of Health – by the numbers

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has risen in the past two months and remains high.
  • Despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases, daily death totals continue to decline and have been in single digits for four of the past nine days.
  • For the week from April 2 through April 8 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate remained the same 9.5 percent it was last week, halting a three-week rise in this important measure.
  • The number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs because of COVID-19, and on ventilators because of COVID-19 all continue to rise slightly.
  • Currently, 19 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 16 percent of medical/surgical beds, 12 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 26 percent of pediatric beds, and 35 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, 2.4 million Pennsylvanians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and an additional 363,000 people have been vaccinated in Philadelphia, according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

Department of Human Services

DHS has announced that the state will work with Walgreens to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to staff and residents of congregate care settings licensed by DHS that were not part of the federal Pharmacy Partnership Program.  This program is expected to vaccinate approximately 2200 people living at 100 facilities through mid-April.  Learn more from this DHS news release.

Around the State

  • Allegheny County has opened its first COVID-19 clinic in the Mon Valley, according to WESA radio.  It is expected to administer up to 200 vaccines a day and will focus on people facing barriers to access to care.
  • Demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Erie County has fallen and fewer people are struggling to schedule appointments, the Erie Times-News reports.
  • FEMA’s mass vaccination clinic at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia is scheduled to close on April 26 and four members of the state’s congressional delegation are asking the White House to keep it open.  Currently the clinic is administering about 6000 vaccines a day, making it the single largest provider of vaccines in the city.  The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story.
  • The Billy Penn web site features a map and a list detailing more than 200 sites in Philadelphia where people can get COVID-19 vaccines.  Most are by appointment only, and the site also features information about different ways to search for vaccine appointments.

 

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, April 7

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s  state government as of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7..

Governor Wolf

  • Effective last Sunday, April 4, Governor Wolf and the Department of Health lifted the mandate that businesses operate through telework when possible.  Even so, the revised orders “highly encourage” continued use of telework if possible.  Learn more from the governor’s revised order, the revised Department of Health order, and this FAQ about this change.
  • This week Pennsylvanians in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan became eligible to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations appointments, the Wolf administration announced in a news release.  Phase 1B eligible people include those living in congregate settings not otherwise specified as long-term-care facilities, people receiving home and community-based services, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, clergy and other essential support for houses of worship, public transit workers, and education workers.
  • The same news release notes that on April 12 all Pennsylvanians in Phase 1C will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments and on April 19 all residents will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.
  • Pennsylvania has completed its campaign to vaccinate school teachers and staff, the governor’s office announced.  More than 112,000 such individuals were vaccinated.

Department of Health

The Department of Health has released a summary of all COVID-19-related health alerts, advisories, and updates it has issued during the pandemic, including information on which health alerts were replaced by others after release.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has risen in the past six weeks after a period of more modest numbers.  Nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases in the country were diagnosed in just five states last week and Pennsylvania is one of the five, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • Amid daily case counts higher now than they have been in recent months but much lower than they were in December and January and growing numbers of Pennsylvanians receiving vaccines, the number of COVID-19 tests being performed in the state, Department of Health data shows, is now roughly half of what it was at the pandemic’s peak during the first ten days of December.
  • Despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases, daily death totals are not rising and are much lower than they were during the pandemic’s autumn and winter peak.
  • For the week from March 26 through April 1 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 9.5 percent, up from 7.6 percent last week.  This is the third consecutive week the state’s positivity rate has risen.
  • Ten counties currently have a positivity rate lower than five percent, down from 17 counties last week, and one has a rate greater than 20 percent.
  • Five counties are currently experiencing low levels of community transmission of COVID-19, down from six last week; 17 counties are experiencing moderate levels of community transmission, down from 26 last week; and 45 counties are currently experiencing substantial levels of community transmission, up from 35 counties last week.
  • The number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs because of COVID-19, and on ventilators because of COVID-19 all continue to rise.
  • Currently, 21 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 18 percent of medical/surgical beds, 17 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 30 percent of pediatric beds, and 36 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • Earlier this week, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard, the number of Pennsylvanians who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 passed the two-million mark.  This number does not include Philadelphia, which operates a separate COVID-19 vaccination program and where another 327,000 people have been vaccinated according to the city’s Department of Public Health.

Department of Human Services

DHS has updated its guidance on COVID-19 for personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate-care facilities.

Department of Education

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has released information on how individuals who become temporary nurse aides during the pandemic can become permanent nurse aides.  Go here for further information.

House Chamber of the State HouseGeneral Assembly

  • The state House on Tuesday passed House Bill 605, which provides limited immunity from COVID-19 liability.  The bill covers health care facilities and practitioners, schools, colleges and universities, child care centers, local governments, and companies that make personal protective equipment.  The bill also requires an arbitration program for personal injury lawsuits stemming from COVID-19.  The bill passed 107-95 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.
  • The state House this week passed House Bill 854, which requires state agencies and contractors – defined as any person who enters into a contract with a state agency – to preserve all COVID-19 records for at least 10 years after the disaster order is terminated.  The bill passed 111-90 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Around the State

  • Lancaster County’s mass vaccination site should be ready to reach its target capacity of 6000 vaccinations a day, Lancaster Online reports.
  • Philadelphia is expanding vaccine eligibility to sanitation workers, maintenance and janitorial staff, utility workers, and postal and package delivery workers this week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • York County’s district attorney has tested positive for COVID-19, has symptoms, and is recovering and quarantining at home, the York Dispatch reports.
  • The operator of a Berks County COVID-19 clinic reported that demand for vaccines slowed enough last week that his staff needed to work to fill available appointments.  The Reading Eagle tells this unusual story.
  • The city of Allentown’s Health Bureau and its EMS staff will visit the homes of people whose health conditions make leaving home difficult to administer COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Allentown Morning Call.
  • FEMA will open a second vaccination site in Philadelphia, the Inquirer reports.  Once open, it is expected to administer 1500-2500 shots a day.  The facility will be staffed by FEMA, with help from the city and state.

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

Medicaid Enrollment Up in PA

Medicaid enrollment in Pennsylvania has risen 13.7 percent in the past year, according to the state’s Department of Human Services, which administers the program.

Nearly 400,000 people have joined Pennsylvania’s Medicaid rolls in the past year, raising the total number of participants to 3.2 million.

Participation in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), cash assistance program, and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) have risen as well during the past year.

Learn more from this Department of Human Services news release.

Filed under: Pennsylvania Medicaid

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, March 31

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31.

Department of Health

  • The Department of Health announced an initiative to vaccinate targeted industry workers and accelerate the vaccination timetable for people in Phases 1B, 1C, and 2.  All Pennsylvanians will be eligible to schedule vaccination appointments beginning April 19.  The new timetable is as follows:
    • March 31 – workers in four previously targeted industries:  law enforcement, firefighters, grocery store workers, and food and agriculture workers.
    • April 5 – all residents in Phase 1B will be eligible to start scheduling vaccinations.
    • April 12 – all residents in Phase 1C will be eligible to start scheduling vaccinations.
    • April 19 – all residents will be eligible to start scheduling vaccinations.

Learn more from this Department of Health news release.  Also, the city of Philadelphia quickly announced that it will not be following this timeline; see a news report here.

  • The Department of Health updated its interim guidance for skilled nursing facilities during COVID-19 with revisions to align with visitation guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), guidance for on-site beauty and barber shops, resources for providers, and information on the Secretary of Health’s order regarding a vaccine needs assessment survey that was due March 23, 2021.
  • The Department of Health has updated its quick start guide addressing changes in the COVID-19 event reporting system that were made on March 24, 2021.  Find the updated instructions here.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has risen over the past two-and-half weeks.  Yesterday’s total was the highest single-day figure in two months.
  • Despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases the daily death totals are not rising.  Over the weekend Pennsylvania surpassed 25,000 deaths from COVID-19.
  • For the week from March 19 through March 25 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 7.6 percent, up from 6.5 percent last week.  This is the second consecutive week the state’s positivity rate has risen.
  • Seventeen counties currently have a positivity rate lower than five percent and none have a rate greater than 20 percent.
  • Six counties are currently experiencing low levels of community transmission of COVID-19, 26 counties are experiencing moderate levels of community transmission, and 35 counties – more than half of the state’s 67 counties – are currently experiencing substantial levels of community transmission.
  • In the past two weeks the number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19 has risen 43 percent; the number being treated for COVID-19 on ventilators has risen 26 percent; and the number being treated in hospital ICUs has risen 47 percent.
  • Currently, 20 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 16 percent of medical/surgical beds, seven percent of pediatric ICU beds, 22 percent of pediatric beds, and 35 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • As of March 31 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians are now fully vaccinated.  This number does not include Philadelphia, which operates a separate COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county.
  • Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reports that as of March 31, 267,000 Philadelphians are fully vaccinated.

Department of Community and Economic Development

The Department of Community and Economic Development has introduced a new, weekly newsletter with the latest information from the state about COVID-19 vaccines.  To subscribe to the “Unite Against COVID Weekly Update” newsletter, go here.

Department of State

Late last year the Department of State granted an extension of 90 days for certain license renewal deadlines for licensees under the Board of Medicine.  With licensees now having difficulty meeting the March 31 deadline, the department has granted an additional 30 days to renew all licenses under the Board of Medicine that were set to expire on December 31, 2020 and have not yet been renewed.  The new deadline is April 30, 2021, and while renewal fees have been waived, the requirement to renew licenses has not.  The Department of State says this will be the final extension for these licenses.  Learn more from this Department of State announcement.

Around the State

  • The Eagles Autism Foundation and Divine Providence Village, a residential facility in Delaware County for people with intellectual disabilities, hosted a vaccination clinic last weekend at Lincoln Financial Field for people with autism who are 18 years of age or older.  Another such clinic is being planned for late April.  Learn more from this Philadelphia Inquirer article.
  • The Scranton Times-Tribune has published a map showing vaccination rates, by county, for seniors ages 65 and older.  Find it here.
  • Next week FEMA will open its second vaccination site in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
  • State Representative Brian Smith (Jefferson, Indiana) has tested positive for COVID-19 and will work remotely for the next two weeks as he recovers and quarantines, according to the web site WeAreCentralPA.com.
  • Chester County’s health department has launched a new system for registering for COVID-19 vaccines.  Individuals who are already registered with the county and who are currently eligible for vaccines will receive emails inviting them to contact the county to schedule their vaccination in one of 88,000 appointment slots that will be available over the next 12 weeks.  The Chester County Daily Local News provides the details.
  • Two Westmoreland County commissioners are hosting an informational session in which participants will learn about the science behind the COVID-19 vaccines so they can make informed decisions about whether to get vaccinated, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.  The science discussion will be led by a University of Pittsburgh professor of medicine who specializes in infectious diseases.
  • Which members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation have received COVID-19 vaccines and which have not?  The Pennsylvania Capital-Star took roll call and presents the results.
  • If Philadelphia’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise the city’s health commissioner says he may reinstate some past restrictions, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

 

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

COVID-19 Update: Friday, March 26

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 26.

Governor Wolf

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer,

Gov. Tom Wolf indicated Thursday the state might move straight to opening eligibility to all adults by May 1, as President Joe Biden directed, and skip over phases 1B and 1C, which include different tiers of essential workers.

Asked when the state would move to 1B, the governor said Biden’s plan “sort of throws out the whole 1A, 1B, 1C thing.”

Department of Health

  • Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam signed an amended order stating that “certain vaccine providers” must work with local Area Agencies on Aging and Medical Assistance managed care organizations to schedule vaccines for adults eligible in Phase 1A of the state’s vaccination plan.  The order also requires these providers to have the ability to schedule appointments for individuals into the future.  Under this order, a vaccine provider that informs a Phase 1A individual that no appointments are available may be subject to enforcement.  The order also requires providers to continue to ensure that appointments can be scheduled both by phone and by using online scheduling systems.  The order requires vaccine providers to schedule appointments as far in advance as necessary to ensure that appointments are made for individuals in Phase 1A and they are prohibited from including messages on websites or by phone that no appointments are available.  For further information, consult the following resources:
  • The Department of Health issued quarantine recommendations for individuals who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies.  This does not apply to health care facility patients, residents, and staff.
  • The Department of Health updated its event reporting system that health care facilities use to report positive COVID-19 test results and deaths involving residents and staff.  The system will now allow for manual addition of records and spreadsheet uploads.  It also clarified that if a resident or staff member tests positive 90 days after a previous positive test, a new record should be entered into the system.  If they test positive within 90 days of a previous positive test, this information should not be entered as a new record.  A quick start guide can be found here and further instructions here.
  • The Department of Health is establishing a new, long-term, free indoor walk-in COVID-19 testing site for the general public in Centre County from March 30 through May 1.  Go here for information about location and hours.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has risen over the past ten days.  Today’s total was the highest single-day total since January 30 and the figures in the preceding days also were higher than in the recent past.
  • Yesterday the state surpassed one million cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, meaning that nearly eight percent of the state’s population has contracted the disease.
  • Despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases the daily death totals are not rising.  Nearly 25,000 Pennsylvanians have now died from COVID-19.
  • More than 82,268 residents and employees in 1574 long-term-care facilities in all 67 Pennsylvania counties have contracted COVID-19.  12,904 of those residents have died – nearly 52 percent of the state’s death total but a declining proportion in comparison to the earlier months of the pandemic.
  • More than 26,000 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • For the week from March 12 through March 18 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent last week.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs with COVID-19, and on ventilators being treated for COVID-19 have been rising for the past ten days.
  • Currently, 21 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 15 percent of medical/surgical beds, nine percent of pediatric ICU beds, 22 percent of pediatric beds, and 34 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • As of March 26 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that more 1.5 million Pennsylvanians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 1.7 million have received both doses of a vaccine.  These numbers do not include Philadelphia, which operates its own COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county.
  • Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reports that as of March 26, nearly 290,000 Philadelphians have been partially vaccinated and more than 200,000 have been fully vaccinated.

Department of Human Services

Department of State

While the Department of State has already authorized pharmacists to delegate authority to administer COVID-19 vaccinations under their supervision to a number of other types of licensed health care professionals, it has now extended that authorization to others who have been authorized or made eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccinations by way of state or federal government action, including the March 10, 2020 declaration and subsequent amendments issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the PREP Act.  See the latest Department of State notice here.

Around the State

  • Allegheny County will introduce a new vaccine registration system next week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
  • The county also is expanding eligibility at its own sites to everyone in group IA, adding people between the ages of 50 and 64 with certain medical conditions.  The Tribune-Review explains.
  • Amid rising case counts, Allegheny County public health officials are advising residents to continue to observe mitigation recommendations, according to KDKA.
  • Berks County commissioners heard a similar message from their emergency services director during their recent public meeting, WFMZ reports.

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, March 24

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24.

Department of Health

The Department of Health announced that beginning Tuesday, March 23, a week-long free drive-through COVID-19 testing site will open for the general public in Luzerne County.  Go here for information about the location and hours.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases has risen over the past ten days.  Today’s total was the highest since February 5 and the figures in the preceding days were also higher than in the recent past.
  • Despite the rising number of new COVID-19 cases the daily death totals are not rising.
  • For the week from March 12 through March 18 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent last week.
  • Five counties are now considered to be in low levels of community transmission:  Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Potter, and Sullivan counties.
  • 37 counties are in moderate levels of community transmission:  Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Chester, Clarion, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, and Westmoreland.
  • 25 counties are still in substantial levels of community transmission:  Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Franklin, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming, and York.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs with COVID-19, and on ventilators being treated for COVID-19 have been rising for the past week.
  • Currently, 21 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 15 percent of medical/surgical beds, 10 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 25 percent of pediatric beds, and 35 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • As of March 24 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that more 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 1.6 million have received both doses of a vaccine.  These numbers do not include Philadelphia, which operates its own COVID-19 vaccination program.
  • The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county.
  • Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reports that as of March 24, 638,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the city:  464,000 first doses and 174,000 second doses.

Department of Human Services

Teresa Miller has resigned as DHS Secretary effective April 30.  Governor Wolf has nominated Meg Snead, currently his Secretary of Policy and Planning, to replace her.

DHS has issued a Medical Assistance Bulletin informing providers that effective June 1, 2021, it will reinstate provider revalidation requirements as applicable prior to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  See the DHS announcement here.

Department of State

The Department of State has again expanded its list of health care professionals who may administer COVID-19 vaccines under appropriate supervision.

General Assembly

  • House Bill 649 was unanimously passed by the House this afternoon. This legislation requires the Department of Health, in consultation with the Department of Human Services, to establish protocols to permit an essential caregiver to provide in-person physical and emotional support to a congregate care facility resident during a declaration of disaster emergency. The provisions of the bill are applicable beginning 15 days after a declaration of disaster emergency is issued and remain in effect until 60 days after the declaration is terminated. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
  • House Bill 63 was also passed by the House this afternoon. This legislation permits an individual who has been authorized to administer a COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer vaccines in Pennsylvania. It also requires the Department of Health to publish specific county-level COVID-19 vaccine data, including vaccine dose allocations and eligible populations, and a description of the Department’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation formula to the Department’s website. Lastly, this legislation requires, in certain counties, the Department of Health to deliver doses of COVID-19 vaccine that are intended for a mass vaccination site to the county health department in which the mass vaccination site is to be held. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Pennsylvania State MapAround the State

  • The Allegheny County council postponed its public meeting this week “due to a covid outbreak amongst council members and staff,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Philadelphia will cancel appointments for as many as 30,000 COVID-19 vaccines scheduled to be administered at its FEMA mass vaccination site in the next three weeks after it discovered that they were scheduled by people improperly using the program’s digital appointment system – a problem the city previously identified and thought it had fixed.  The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story.
  • Where are the new COVID-19 hot spots in Pennsylvania?  The Philadelphia Inquirer offers the details and a map.
  • According to Philly Voice, “Because Philadelphia is seeing a steady increase in new cases of COVID-19 – and, recently, an uptick in hospitalizations – city officials said Tuesday they will not be further relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants and large outdoor events when the rest of Pennsylvania does so in less than two weeks.”  Go here for further details.
  • The state will establish mass vaccination sites in two of the four suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia Inquirer explains that it will be doing so over the objections of the leaders of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

 

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

Change Atop PA’s Department of Human Services

Teresa Miller is out and Meg Snead will be in as Pennsylvania’s new Secretary of the Department of Human Services.

In separate news releases the Wolf administration announced that Miller, who has led DHS since 2015, “will be moving on to a new opportunity outside Pennsylvania” and leave her job at the end of April and that she will be replaced by Meg Snead, who currently serves as the governor’s Secretary of Policy and Planning.

Snead’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

The Secretary of the Department of Human Services is important to SNAP members and Pennsylvania safety-net hospitals because the state’s Medicaid program is administered by that department’s Office of Medical Assistance Programs.

Learn more about Miller’s departure here and about Snead’s nomination here.

Filed under: Pennsylvania Medicaid, Pennsylvania safety-net hospitals, Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania

COVID Drives Major Increase in PA Medicaid Enrollment

Medicaid enrollment in Pennsylvania has risen nearly 14 percent in the past year as rising unemployment resulting from COVID-19 drives people to turn to the state for health insurance.

As a result, Pennsylvania has added nearly 400,000 people to its Medicaid rolls in the past year.  Today, 3.2 million Pennsylvanians are enrolled in the state’s program, although among them are approximately 250,000 who would have been dropped from the program except for a federal requirement that the state not drop people from the program in exchange for a major increase in federal aid for the state’s program.

As a result of the increase, the state’s Department of Human Services, which runs its Medicaid program, has asked the legislature for nearly $1 billion in supplemental funding to help finance its services for this expanded enrollment through the rest of the state’s FY 2021 year.

Learn more about the past year’s increase in Medicaid enrollment, who the new enrollees are, and how the state is accommodating them in the Philadelphia Inquirer article “A huge spike in Medicaid enrollment in Pa. shows how devastating the coronavirus has been.”

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19, Pennsylvania Medicaid, Pennsylvania Medicaid coronavirus, Pennsylvania Medicaid COVID-19

MACPAC Issues Recommendations to Congress

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission has submitted its annual report to Congress on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The report includes recommendations for:

  • improving Medicaid’s responsiveness during economic downturns
  • addressing concerns about high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality;
  • reexamining Medicaid’s estate recovery policies
  • integrating care for people who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare
  • improving hospital payment policy for the nation’s safety-net hospitals

MACPAC is a non-partisan legislative branch agency that “provides policy and data analysis and makes recommendations to Congress, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the states on a wide array of issues affecting Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”  Its mandate calls for it to address matters such as Medicaid and CHIP payment, eligibility, enrollment and retention, coverage, access to care, quality of care, and the programs’ interaction with Medicare and the health care system generally.

Because Pennsylvania safety-net hospitals care for so many more Medicaid and CHIP participants than the typical community hospital, MACPAC’s deliberations are especially important to them.

Learn more about MACPAC’s recommendations in its Report to Congress on Medicaid and CHIP.

Filed under: Federal Medicaid issues

COVID-19 Update: Monday, March 22

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 22.

Department of Health

  • The Department of Health has amended the state’s universal face coverings order to align with updated federal CDC guidelines.  The amended order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on March 17, 2021 and will remain in effect until further notice.  The new state order addresses activities that fully vaccinated people can resume now, as low risk to themselves, while being mindful of the potential risk of transmitting the virus to others.  For further information, see the following resources:
  • The Department of Health has outlined temporary plans to get more COVID-19 vaccine to Pennsylvanians and improve transparency and technical resources online.  According to officials, “Starting the week of March 22, a focused network of 200-300 providers can expect to see more first doses of vaccine arriving and will be assured of a steady supply for the next several weeks.”  In addition:

The temporarily focused network of providers was selected following an extensive review, which included a survey of all providers and mapping out an initial view of the provider network to receive focused allocations of first vaccine doses over the next few weeks. Providers were selected based on:

  • geographic reach,
  • access for residents,
  • equity across demographics,
  • vaccine throughput, and
  • estimated demand.

The selection process took into account the ability to administer a high volume of first doses within seven days of delivery while maintaining equity across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines as well as the ability to capture and report vaccine administration data within 24 hours. 

The temporarily narrowed network of vaccine providers is designed to reach people with different needs and preferences using a mix of provider types, including:

  • hospitals,
  • pharmacies,
  • Federally Qualified Health Centers, and
  • public health providers.

Learn more from a Department of Health news release.

That same March 19 news release states that

As proof that the pace of vaccinations is accelerating, yesterday the CDC ranked Pennsylvania number two in the nation for the number of doses administered per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • The number of new COVID-19 cases has fallen significantly since November and December but the decline has ended and the daily numbers now generally are higher than they have been in recent weeks.
  • Despite the slightly rising number of new COVID-19 cases the daily death totals continue to decline.
  • For the week from March 12 through March 18 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 6.5 percent, up from 5.7 percent last week.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs with COVID-19, and on ventilators being treated for COVID-19 have all risen slightly in the past week.
  • Currently, 24 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 21 percent of medical/surgical beds, 11 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 30 percent of pediatric beds, and 37 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • As of March 22 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 1.5 million have received both doses of a vaccine; the latter increase is 19 percent in the past week.  These numbers do not include Philadelphia, which operates its own COVID-19 vaccination program.  The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county.
  • Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health reports that as of March 20, 580,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the city:  419,000 first doses and 161,000 second doses.
  • Thus, while the state has completed vaccination of approximately 13.4 percent of its non-Philadelphia population, Philadelphia has completed vaccination of only about ten percent of its population.

Around the State

Department of Human Services

DHS has issued a Medical Assistance bulletin announcing the addition of CPT code M0245 for the use of the unapproved monoclonal antibody therapies bamlanivimab and etesevimab when administered together.  The medications have received emergency use authorization from the federal FDA.

Resources to Consult

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services

Main COVID-19 Page

COVID-19 Provider Resources

Press Releases

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Main COVID-19 Page

PA Health Alert Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page

FAQ

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

P:(717)234-6970; F:(717)234-6971
2012 Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania