SNAPShots

HomeSNAPShots

COVID-19 Update: Tuesday, January 19

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state government as of 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 19.

Office of the Governor/Vaccination Plan

The state has expanded its categories of individuals eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as part of phase 1A of Pennsylvania’s vaccination plan; this change is incorporated into the Department of Health’s vaccine web page.  To introduce this policy change, the governor’s office also sent the following message to selected stakeholders:

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today will announce two additional categories of eligible individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as part of Phase 1A. Beginning today, all individuals 65 and older, and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. The Departments’ Updated Interim Vaccine Plan can be found here.

Those conditions are outlined by the CDC here and include: Cancer; Chronic kidney disease; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); Down Syndrome; Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; Obesity; Severe Obesity; Pregnancy; Sickle cell disease; Smoking; and Type 2 diabetes mellitus. 

If you are part of a group that is eligible for vaccination, you can use the Pennsylvania Vaccine Provider Map to find a place to schedule your vaccine. Contact the vaccine provider of your choice directly to schedule an appointment. This map will be updated as more locations receive vaccine. Although a provider may have received vaccine, there is no guarantee that they have open appointments as supply is still very limited. Check back frequently as the map will be updated multiple times per week. 

We’ll be releasing additional information later today, including an FAQ, with more detailed information on how individuals can find a provider to schedule a vaccination. Thank you for your partnership and for all you are doing to serve Pennsylvania. 

Department of Health

President-elect Biden has nominated Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine to become assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Although the numbers remain very high, the decline in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases has generally continued since late last week.
  • The death toll remains very high, with more than 19,000 Pennsylvanians dying from COVID-19 – 18 percent of them since January 1.
  • For the week from January 8 through January 14 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate fell to 12.7 percent; it was 14.4 percent the week before that.  This marked the fourth consecutive week the rate fell.
  • Despite these positive signs, all 67 Pennsylvania counties remain in “substantial level of community transmission,” as has been the case the past several weeks, and all counties have positivity rates greater than five percent, which is the level that is considered “concerning.”
  • Four of those counties have positivity rates greater than 20 percent, down from 14 counties last week and 27 counties two weeks ago.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen below 5000 for the first time since early December.  The number of Pennsylvanians in hospital ICUs has fallen in the past week, as has the number on ventilators.
  • More than 21,500 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • More than 71,000 long-term-care facility residents and employees have contracted COVID-19 in 1521 facilities in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
  • Currently, 18 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 16 percent of medical/surgical beds, 16 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 32 percent of pediatric beds, and 34 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • In its “Reduction of Elective Procedures” dashboard that tracks the criteria the state is using to determine whether to order hospitals to reduce or eliminate elective procedures to ensure their ability to handle possible influxes of COVID-19 patients, the state continues to flag a growing staffing shortage in hospitals in the state’s Keystone health care coalition region (Adams, Bedford, Blair, Centre, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, and York counties).  In that region, 41 percent of the region’s hospitals anticipate a staffing shortage in the coming week – more than the 33 percent level that the state believes poses a potential problem.  The overall situation in the Keystone region, however, has not reached a point where the state would direct hospitals in this region to reduce or eliminate their elective surgeries.  This situation has remained the same for the past two weeks.
  • As of January 19 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that 340,000 COVID-19 Pennsylvanians have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 42,000 Pennsylvanians have received both doses of vaccine.
  • The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county both on a map and in lists.
  • A spreadsheet of facilities that have received vaccine can be found here.
  • As ordered by the Department of Health in late 2020, health care institutions – hospitals, FQHCs, and others – must reserve 10 percent of the doses of COVID-19 vaccines they received for non-hospital health care providers.  Now, the vaccine page on the department’s web site features a map of locations where non-hospital providers can obtain vaccines.  The map includes contact information for non-hospital providers identifying whom they can contact to schedule their vaccines.  State officials say more sites will be added to this map as more doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available.
  • Every week the White House Coronavirus Task Force provides a profile to the administration with data and recommendations for each state.  Go here to see the latest (January 10) report for Pennsylvania.

Department of Human Services

  • DHS’s Office of Long-Term Living has issued a transition plan to phase out temporary changes in Pennsylvania’s OBRA 1915(c) waiver.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved temporary changes in that waiver beginning March 6, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  These changes addressed potential staffing shortages and the need for service provision not included in approved service descriptions.  OLTL has now obtained another waiver from CMS to extend the effective date of the temporary changes, permitting some flexibilities to continue until March 5, 2021; to provide additional flexibilities for Adult Daily Living Services to be provided remotely; and for waiver services to be provided in alternate settings as approved by OLTL.  OLTL now publishes new guidance that rescinds and replaces its OBRA guidance dated May 8, 2020.  This guidance also clarifies flexibilities that remain available through March 5, 2021 or another date determined by OLTL.  See the revised guidance here and find additional information here, including a list of flexibilities that remain in effect until March 5.
  • OLTL has updated its guidance on COVID-19-related temporary changes in the state’s Act 150 program.  The Act 150 program provides assistance to adults 18 through 59 years of age who are mentally alert and have physical disabilities to perform activities of daily living.
  • HHS’s Office of Development Programs has issued updated guidance for adult daily living providers delivering services remotely or by telephone during the COVID-19 emergency.
  • HHS’s Office of Development Programs has issued guidance to supports coordination organizations, administrative entities, providers, and other interested parties regarding services included in Individual Support Plans that are effective through June 30, 2021 for individuals enrolled in the Consolidated, Community Living, Person/Family Directed Support (P/FDS), or Adult Autism waivers.

Department of State

Pennsylvania’s Department of State has issued a waiver permitting pharmacists who hold a valid Authorization to Administer Injectables to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines without the need for an order from a licensed prescriber or a protocol approved/authorized by a physician or the medical staff of an institution, subject to certain terms and conditions.  The order applies only to administering COVID-19 vaccines and expires 90 days after the termination of the governor’s declaration of the COVID-19 emergency.

Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council

PHC4 has released its initial “COVID-19 Disaster Emergency Report.”  According to the report, the state’s hospitals and health systems had $4.93 billion in COVID-19-related expenses and lost revenue from January through September 2020; this figure does reflect federal funding provided under the CARES Act and other measures.

Around the 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

PA Hospitals Out $5 Billion From COVID-19

Pennsylvania hospitals reported a combined $5 billion in additional expenses and lost revenue associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency during the nine-month period from January through September, according to a new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

The report breaks down the additional costs and lost revenue as follows:

  • staffing expenses – $379 million
  • testing expenses – $81 million
  • supplies and equipment: $258 million
  • construction – $21 million
  • housing care – $500,000
  • other expenses – $88 million
  • lost revenue – $4.1 billion

These figures, the report notes, do not reflect emergency funds hospitals received through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), or the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

Learn more about how COVID-19 has affected the financial performance of Pennsylvania’s hospitals in the PHC4 analysis “COVID-19 Disaster Emergency Report.”

 

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, January 13

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state and federal governments as of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13.

Pennsylvania Update

The Wolf Administration

The Wolf administration has announced that the state is transitioning from the Regional Response Health Care Collaboration program (RRHC) created last year to a Long-Term Care Task Force that includes Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams (RCATs) to continue supporting those facilities.  The ten health systems that participated in the RRHC will continue to work with the RCATs, with some previous RRHC functions to be performed by separate contractors.  The program has been allocated $12 million for January and February.  Learn more about the transition, the new program, and the contractors in this Wolf administration news release.

Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine

On Monday, January 11 Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine held a news briefing and the following day she participated in a separate briefing led by Governor Wolf.  Highlights from the January 11 briefing:

  • As of January 11, when this briefing was held, the state has received 827,000 doses of vaccine and 285,000 of them have been administered.  This latter total may not include some administered by CVS and Walgreens, which are serving long-term-care facilities.  They take as long as 72 hours to report on how many vaccines have administered.
  • Operation Warp Speed says Pennsylvania will receive 138,000 new doses this week.
  • It will take several months before there is enough vaccine for everyone, Secretary Levine said.
  • Doses are going directly from federal sources to hospitals and other providers and those providers are often receiving them with very little advance notice.  Notification comes from Operation Warp Speed, not the state.
  • The state expects more than $100 million to help administer vaccines; this money comes from the end-of-the-year COVID-19 relief/stimulus bill.
  • The perception that the state has been slow to administer vaccines is largely a function of unrealistic projections from the federal government, especially during the holiday season, Secretary Levine said.
  • Pennsylvania is considering expanding access to vaccines to Phase 1-B individuals (seniors).
  • In response to concerns about people choosing not to be vaccinated, Secretary Levine said that the federal government needs a better plan for communicating the importance and effectiveness of the vaccines and the state will be doing the same.
  • Pennsylvanians should not expect to see the impact of vaccinations on new COVID-19 case levels for several months.
  • Secretary Levine said she has received no reports of hospitals discarding unused vaccines.
  • In response to questions about new guidance from Washington about vaccination priorities, Secretary Levine said that she and the Department of Health have not yet seen that guidance and will review it before making any changes in the state’s current approach, although she supports vaccinating additional elderly individuals when programs are in progress and there is serum available.

Highlights of the joint January 12 news briefing:

  • 311,000 vaccines have now been administered, including to more than 52,000 skilled nursing facility residents and staff.
  • Special testing is needed for the new (UK) strain of COVID-19.  Based on the genetic content of current test results, the state is directing that some samples be sent to the CDC or CDC-designated labs for further analysis to ascertain whether they are the UK strain.  The state hopes to develop the capacity to do these tests itself at its Exton lab sometime next month.
  • About two percent of Pennsylvanians have received the vaccine, Secretary Levine said.  That roughly tracks the current vaccination rate nation-wide, she said.
  • There have been no reports of people trying to jump the line to get vaccines, Secretary Levine said.
  • In response to a question, Secretary Levine said that while rural areas did not receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine because they lack facilities to store it, those areas have received, and will continue to receive, the Moderna vaccine and others as they become available.
  • The state’s partnership with rural pharmacies to administer vaccines should begin the next few weeks.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • After several days of its highest new case counts in several weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Pennsylvania has declined significantly in recent days.
  • The death toll remains high, however, and yesterday the state surpassed 18,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
  • For the week from January 1 through January 7 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate fell to 14.4 percent; it was 15 percent the week before that.  This marked the third consecutive week the rate fell slightly.
  • Despite this modest decline, all 67 Pennsylvania counties remain in “substantial level of community transmission,” as has been the case the past several weeks.
  • Fourteen of those counties have positivity rates greater than 20 percent, down from 27 such counties the previous week.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs, and on ventilators remain very high but are at their lowest levels since early December.
  • Nearly 21,000 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • More than 68,000 long-term-care facility residents and employees have contracted COVID-19 in 1500 facilities in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
  • Currently, 16 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 14 percent of medical/surgical beds, 14 percent of pediatric ICU beds 28 percent of pediatric beds, and 32 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • In its “Reduction of Elective Procedures” dashboard that tracks the criteria the state is using to determine whether to order hospitals to reduce or eliminate elective procedures to ensure their ability to handle possible influxes of COVID-19 patients, the state continues to flag a growing staffing shortage in hospitals in the state’s Keystone health care coalition region (Adams, Bedford, Blair, Centre, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, and York counties).  In that region, 41 percent of the region’s hospitals anticipate a staffing shortage in the coming week – more than the 33 percent level that the state believes poses a potential problem.  The overall situation in the Keystone region, however, has not reached a point where the state would direct hospitals in this region to reduce or eliminate their elective surgeries.
  • As of January 13 the state’s vaccine dashboard shows that 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far and more than 42,000 Pennsylvanians have received both doses of vaccine.
  • The vaccine dashboard shows vaccine totals by county both on a map and in lists.
  • As ordered by the Department of Health in late 2020, health care institutions – hospitals, FQHCs, and others – must reserve 10 percent of the doses of COVID-19 vaccines they received for non-hospital health care providers.  Now, the vaccine page on the department’s web site features a map of locations where non-hospital providers can obtain vaccines.  The map includes contact information for non-hospital providers identifying whom they can contact to schedule their vaccines.  State officials say more sites will be added to this map as more doses of COVID-19 vaccine become available.
  • Every week the White House Coronavirus Task Force provides a profile to the administration with data and recommendations for each state.  Go here to see the latest (January 3) report for Pennsylvania.

Department of Human Services

DHS’s Office of Long-Term Living has issued vaccination information for its home and community-based providers.

House Chamber of the State HouseGeneral Assembly

  • House Bill 55 was favorably reported from the State Government Committee earlier today. This legislation would amend Pennsylvania’s constitution to limit gubernatorial emergency declarations to no more than 21 days unless the General Assembly agrees to extend it in whole or part.  In addition, once a disaster emergency expires, the governor would not be able to declare a new one based on “the same or substantially similar facts” without approval from the General Assembly.  Further, the bill would clarify that the General Assembly, through a concurrent resolution, could vote to terminate a disaster declaration without having to present it to the governor.  Similar legislation was passed by both chambers in the previous legislative session.  If it is passed by both chambers this session, it could be placed on the ballot as early as this spring for voter approval.

Around the State

Federal Update

Provider Relief Fund

  • HHS has updated its Provider Relief Fund FAQ with nine new or modified questions on pages 12-13, 13, 15 (three questions), 40-41, 41, and 56.  The new and modified questions address
    • how changes of ownership affect providers’ ability to receive Provider Relief Fund grants and nursing home quality incentive payments;
    • answer questions about audit deadlines and extensions;
    • and describe the methodology for calculating Phase 3 distributions and the timing and size of those distributions.

Providers that have received past distributions and that believe they are eligible for Phase 3 distributions should review the updated FAQ carefully.

Department of Defense

  • The Department of Defense, which is playing a leading role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, has posted a brief document titled “Officials Discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Deliveries and Prioritization Criteria.”  The document outlines the status of vaccine distribution efforts to date, offers data on the number of vaccines that have been distributed and administered, and notes the expansion of vaccine administration to individuals beyond those considered to be the highest priority for receiving vaccines.

Department of Health and Human Services

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information about the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer participants an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

CMS COVID-19 Office Hours Calls

Tuesday, February 2  at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  4956655

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Tuesday, February 23 at 5:00 – 6:00 PM (eastern)

Toll Free Attendee Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  2528725

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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, January 8

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state government as 2:00 p.m. on Friday, January 8.

Department of Health

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Pennsylvania’s daily new case count generally remains at the high level it has been since mid-December but today was the state’s worst day since December 12.  Yesterday the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began surpassed 700,000.
  • Yesterday the state’s overall death toll since the pandemic began passed 17,000.
  • The numbers of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs, and on ventilators remain very high but are at their lowest levels since early December.
  • More than 20,000 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • More than 66,000 long-term-care facility residents and employees have contracted COVID-19 in 1491 facilities in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
  • Currently, 13 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 13 percent of medical/surgical beds, 16 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 23 percent of pediatric beds, and 30 percent of airborne isolation units.  The proportion of unoccupied medical/surgical beds, pediatric ICU beds, and pediatric beds has declined considerably over the past three days.
  • In its “Reduction of Elective Procedures” dashboard that tracks the criteria the state is using to determine whether to order hospitals to reduce or eliminate elective procedures to ensure their ability to handle possible influxes of COVID-19 patients, the state has flagged a growing staffing shortage in hospitals in the state’s Keystone health care coalition region (Adams, Bedford, Blair, Centre, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, and York counties).  In that region, 41 percent of the region’s hospitals anticipate a staffing shortage in the coming week – more than the 33 percent level that the state identifies as a potential problem.  The overall situation in the Keystone region, however, has not reached a point where the state would direct hospitals in this region to reduce or eliminate their elective surgeries.

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: Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state government as 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 5.

Secretary Levine’s News Briefing

Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine briefed the press yesterday about the state of Pennsylvania’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and took questions from reporters.  Among the highlights of her briefing are the following points:

  • Secretary Levine discussed the new state policy that hospitals that receive shipments of vaccine doses must set aside 10 percent of their supply to vaccinate non-hospital health care workers, such as EMS personnel.  This policy takes effect on Wednesday, January 6.  Every hospital that has receive doses must designate a contact whom non-hospital health care workers can contact to schedule their vaccinations.
  • Within their own organizations, hospitals should give priority to vaccinating frontline health care workers, beginning with those who come into contact with patients who have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Pennsylvania expects 166,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine this week.  99,000 will be for second doses to health care workers who already received the first dose; 32,000 will be for first doses for additional health care workers; and 39,000 will be for vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities.
  • The state also will receive 80,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.
  • The number of vaccine doses the state receives from the federal government will fluctuate from week to week so the delivery schedule will fluctuate as well.
  • CVS and Walgreens have started to visit long-term-care facilities to administer vaccines.  The state is waiting for a report from the companies on which facilities they visited and how many vaccines they gave.
  • The slow roll-out of the vaccines nation-wide, Secretary Levine says, is the product of overly optimistic projections for the holiday season.
  • It will take months for all Pennsylvanians to be vaccinated.
  • Providers and the state will need to hire additional health care professionals to administer vaccines.  The additional funding provided by Congress at the end of last year should help with this.
  • When the time comes, the state will have ways for people to sign up for appointments to receive their vaccines.  It does not want people waiting in long lines to get their shots.
  • While the state has received reports of health care workers and long-term-care personnel declining to get vaccinated, it has no numbers on how prevalent this has been.

Department of Health

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Pennsylvania continues to experience between 7000 and 9000 new COVID-19 cases a day, as it generally has since mid-December.  The overall total of cases in the state now approaches 675,000 since the pandemic began.
  • Daily death toll figures generally have ranged between 200 and 300 a day since mid-December but have declined in recent days.  The total death count rose past 16,500 today.
  • The number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19 has been fairly constant since Christmas, as has the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs.  The number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators has declined modestly from its pre-Christmas high.
  • More than 19,700 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • Nearly 65,000 long-term-care facility residents and employees have contracted COVID-19 in 1479 facilities in all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
  • Currently, 13 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 14 percent of medical/surgical beds, 21 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 34 percent of pediatric beds, and 30 percent of airborne isolation units.
  • The weekly Pennsylvania COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard, issued by the Department of Health and Governor Wolf, shows that the state’s positivity rate for COVID-19 tests fell from 15.1 percent two weeks ago to 15 percent last week.  This is the third consecutive week the rate has declined.
  • Despite this, all 67 Pennsylvania counties remain, according to Pennsylvania’s criteria, in “substantial transmission status.”
  • Every county in the state has a positivity rate greater than five percent, which is generally considered a “concern,” and 21 of the state’s 67 counties have positivity rates of more than 20 percent.
  • The state also reports that it has experienced a “…significant decrease” in people willing to cooperate with contract tracing investigations.
  • The Department of Health’s “COVID-19 Data for Pennsylvania” web page has several features of potential interest to health care providers and stakeholders.
    • Its “Reduction of Elective Procedures” dashboard tracks the criteria the state is using – staffing, surge percentage, and bed availability – to determine whether it will order hospitals to reduce or eliminate elective procedures to ensure their ability to handle possible influxes of COVID-19 patients.  Organized according to the state’s seven health coalition regions, the latest dashboard shows only one potential problem area:  staffing shortages among southwestern Pennsylvania hospitals.  Despite this, the dashboard shows no need for hospitals in any part of the state to curtail or suspend elective procedures at this time.
    • Another feature on the COVID-19 Data for Pennsylvania page is a “Vaccine Dashboard” that shows the number of vaccines administered in the state on a county-by-county basis.  As of January 4, more than 135,000 vaccines have been administered.  These vaccines are all categorized as “partial” because complete vaccination requires two doses and not the one dose that has been administered so far.

Department of Human Services

Department of Revenue

Pennsylvania collected $3.7 billion in General Fund revenue in December, which was $465.8 million, or 14.5 percent, more than anticipated, Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell reported on Monday. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $18.5 billion, which is $467.1 million, or 2.6 percent, above estimate.

Around the 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

COVID-19 Update: Thursday, December 24

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state government as of 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 24.

Department of Health

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • After a three-day lull, Pennsylvania’s daily count of new COVID-19 cases has risen past 9000 for the past few days.
  • Death counts remain as high as they have been at any time during the pandemic:  more than 200 deaths a day in eight of past ten days.
  • More than 18,300 health care workers in the state have contracted COVID-19.
  • Currently, 12 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 17 percent of medical/surgical beds, 20 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 41 percent of pediatric beds, and 32 percent of airborne isolation units.

Department of Human Services

DHS has issued a Medical Assistance Bulletin informing providers that it has added Current Procedural Terminology codes to the Medical Assistance program fee schedule for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.  The new codes take effect retroactive to December 1, 2020.

Department of State

The Department of State has suspended certain limits on the nursing practice limits of student nurses to permit those who have expertise in the technical details of administering vaccines to serve as technicians, separate and apart from their clinical placements but without being licensed, to administer influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, with supervision by a licensed health care practitioner.  This waiver extends for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency plus an additional 90 days after the emergency ends.

The Department of State has extended an existing waiver that permits licensed professionals whose endeavors are overseen by 22 of the 29 licensing boards and commissions overseen by department’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to continue renewing their licenses after January 1, 2021 using continuing education programs through either traditional, in-person courses or distance learning.  As a result, licensees may satisfy up to 100 percent of their continuing education requirements for their next renewal with hours obtained entirely through online courses from providers of distance education that meet the applicable board’s continuing education requirements.

Around the State

  • Areas of Pennsylvania that were largely spared from this spring’s COVID-19 outbreak are now feeling the pandemic’s effects, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.  The story highlights the situation in Blair, Mifflin, and Westmoreland counties.
  • Several counties are seeing a leveling off in the number of new COVID-19 but continued increases in COVID-related deaths, according to reports in the Bucks County Courier Times, the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, and the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
  • The Harrisburg area was the scene of the highest number of citations for violations of the state’s latest COVID-19 restrictions last weekend, the Carlisle Sentinel 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: Tuesday, December 22

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state government as 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 22.

Governor Wolf

Last week the Governor’s Budget Office released a mid-year budget report.  The report noted that the state ended the 2019-2020 fiscal year with a $2.7 billion deficit largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For the second half of the fiscal year the administration projects that economic growth will rebound slightly due to low interest rates, short-term fiscal policies, and a declining unemployment rate. The mid-year budget report also highlighted areas of concern moving forward, including the uncertainty of the impact of COVID-19 on state revenue, the replacement of one-time funding sources, and the unknown potential of additional federal stimulus funding.  The administration will deliver its fiscal year 2021-2022 budget proposal on February 2nd.

Department of Health

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Pennsylvania’s number of new daily COVID-19 cases remains exceptionally high but has declined during the past three days.
  • The state’s total number of COVID-19 cases today surpassed 560,000.  Thirty-seven percent of those cases have been diagnosed this month alone.
  • The number of new daily COVID-19 deaths remains exceptionally high and is not declining.  Today the state surpassed 14,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and more than 25 percent of those deaths have been this month.
  • Nearly 6200 Pennsylvanians are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.  That is more than twice the number of people hospitalized during the peak of the crisis in the spring.
  • The state’s positivity rate on COVID-19 tests fell from 16.2 percent two weeks ago to 15.8 percent last week.
  • More than 57,000 residents and employees of long-term-care facilities have contracted COVID-19.  That encompasses 1433 facilities in all 67 counties.
  • Nearly 18,000 health care workers have now contracted the virus.
  • According to the state’s COVID-19 early warning monitoring dashboard, every county in the state except Sullivan County now has a positivity rate greater than five percent.  In the past, Department of Health Secretary Levine has referred to anything greater than five percent as “concerning.”
  • All 67 Pennsylvania counties are now, according to the Department of Health, in “substantial levels of community transmission.”
  • Among young people from the ages of five through 18, there have been more than 44,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.  Twenty-seven percent of those cases have occurred in the past two weeks.

Department of Human Services

DHS’s Office of Developmental Programs has released temporary closure guidance to Older Adult Daily Living Centers, Structured Day Programs, LIFE Day Centers, Adult Training Facilities and Vocational Facilities related to the community spread of COVID-19 or when an individual or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 and spent 15 minutes or more in the facility within a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the person is isolated.  This announcement also describes the process for re-opening facilities using DHS’s Community Participation Support and Older Adult Facility Reopening Tool.  Find the announcement here.

DHS’s Office of Developmental Programs policy states that staff members can administer medications to individuals if the staff person successfully completes an ODP-approved medication administration course.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ODP permitted staff who are required to take the Standard Medication Administration Training Course to take the Modified Medication Training Course until December 31, 2020.  Because the pandemic continues, staff may still take the modified course in place of the standard course until June 30, 2021.  Go here to see the policy statement and learn more about certain conditions under which it applies.

Department of State

  • The Department of State has authorized chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, and podiatrists to order and administer COVID-19 tests if they have been issued a clinical lab permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to conduct diagnostic lab testing.  See the department’s announcement of this policy, which will remain in effect for the duration of the governor’s emergency declaration and an additional 90 days.
  • The Department of State has extended its March 2020 waiver temporarily suspending the requirement that pharmacists with active Authorizations to Administer Injectables maintain active certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  Pursuant to that waiver, if a pharmacist held a valid CPR certificate on March 17, 2020, the State Board of Pharmacy has treated that certification as valid through December 31, 2020.  As long as a pharmacist held a CPR certificate that was valid on March 17, 2020, such certification will be accepted by the board as valid through March 31, 2021.  Pharmacists who fall within this group may take an online CPR training class in lieu of in-person training to enable them to renew their CPR certification prior to the new, extended deadline of March 31, 2021.  This does not affect the current biennial renewals for pharmacists and for authorizations to administer injectables.  Those renewals are still due by December 29, 2020.
  • The Department of State has issued a 90-day extension of the December 31, 2020 renewal deadline for licensees under the State Board of Medicine.  These licenses will remain active until March 31, 2021.  In addition, emergency temporary licenses granted to licensed practitioners in other states and jurisdictions have been extended from their current expiration date of December 31, 2020 to June 30, 2021.  If an individual already holds an emergency temporary license but is unable to meet all requirements for full licensure by December 31, 2020, that individual may continue to practice in Pennsylvania after December 31, 2020 until the next expiration date of June 30, 2021.

Around the State

  • The Harrisburg Patriot-News has published an interactive map with a county-by-county breakdown of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania since the start of the pandemic.
  • The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, citing data collected by the New York Times, reported that Pennsylvania’s Cambria County “…led the nation in new cases per capita over the past two weeks – among counties with populations of 100,000 or more people.”
  • COVID-19 is posing increasing staffing challenges for nursing homes in southwestern Pennsylvania according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report that tells of one nursing home company where the situation “…is so dire that roughly a dozen corporate office workers have been trained as temporary nurse aides.  Employees who were formerly nurses have jumped in to help, picking up overnight and back-to-back shifts when spates of employees got sick or quarantined at home,” adding that “…at least 372 of the chain’s roughly 1,500 staffers – or nearly 1 in 4 – have contracted covid-19.”  The article also tells of facilities’ extensive use of staffing agencies to fill positions.
  • Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli has tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Latrobe Bulletin.  This means all three of the county’s commissioners have contracted the virus; two remain under quarantine.
  • The Philadelphia Business Journal reported on the city of Philadelphia’s plans for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

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: COVID-19, DSH hospitals

GAO: CMS Should Pay More Attention to States’ Financing of Medicaid

The federal government does not adequately monitor how states finance their Medicaid programs.

It also lacks a sufficiently clear understanding of how they pay providers of Medicaid-covered services.

These are among the conclusions in a new study on Medicaid financing and payments by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

According to the GAO report,

GAO estimated that states’ reliance on provider taxes and local government funds decreased states’ share of net Medicaid payments (total state and federal payments) and effectively increased the federal share of net Medicaid payments by 5 percentage points in state fiscal year 2018.  It also resulted in smaller net payments to some providers after the taxes and local government funds they contribute to their payments are taken into account. While net payments are smaller, the federal government’s contribution does not change. This effectively shifts responsibility for a larger portion of Medicaid payments to the federal government and away from states.

To address this challenge, the GAO urged CMS to collect more complete and consistent information about both state financing of their Medicaid programs and the manner in which states pay Medicaid providers.  CMS neither agreed nor disagreed with the GAO’s recommendation.

Such a study could have implications for Pennsylvania safety-net hospitals because of the state’s growing dependence on provider taxes to fund its Medicaid programs in recent years.

Learn more about what the GAO found and recommended in its new report “Medicaid:  CMS Needs More Information on States’ Financing and Payment Arrangements to Improve Oversight.”

Filed under: Federal Medicaid issues, Pennsylvania Medicaid, Pennsylvania Medicaid policy, Pennsylvania safety-net hospitals

SNAP Asks Congress to Help Hospitals Keep Provider Relief Fund Grants

Pennsylvania’s safety-net hospitals could lose some or all of their CARES Act Provider Relief Fund grant money and the Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania is asking members of the state’s congressional delegation to intervene on their behalf to prevent it.

Safety-Net Association of Pennsylvania logoAt issue are financial reporting requirements that at first directed hospitals to estimate their anticipated revenue losses and extra expenses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in one way and then shifted to a new approach.  The first grant distribution was based on the original reporting requirements, and now, hospitals fear that the change in reporting requirements could leave them vulnerable to a demand that they return some, much, or all of that grant money.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced one set of reporting requirement in June and then proposed modifying them in September.  In response to widespread expressions of concern, including from SNAP, HHS revised those proposed changes – but not enough, according to many stakeholders, leaving them concerned that HHS would ask them to return some of their grant money.  Now, SNAP is asking the same members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation who asked HHS to reconsider the reporting requirements to do so again.

See SNAP’s letter to the delegation asking its members to sign onto a bipartisan letter asking HHS to revise its reporting requirements once again.  Go here to see the letter members of Congress are being asked to sign.

 

Filed under: Coronavirus, COVID-19

COVID-19 Update: Thursday, December 10

The following is the latest COVID-19 information from the state and federal governments as 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 10.

Pennsylvania Update

Governor Wolf

In a news conference held Thursday afternoon from his home in York, where he is under quarantine because he was diagnosed with COVID-19, Governor Wolf announced new state mitigation efforts to attempt to stem the current surge of cases in the state.  Joining Governor Wolf for the news conference was Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who also is under quarantine because she recently was exposed to people who have tested positive for the disease.  (Members of the governor’s staff and security team have tested positive for COVID-19.)

The new mitigation steps take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning, December 12, expire on January 4 at 8:00 a.m., and include:

  • All in-person indoor dining at restaurants, bars, and other such establishments is prohibited.  Outdoor dining is permitted, as is take-out service.
  • Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited.  Places of worship are excluded from this limit but urged to find alternative methods of worship.
  • Outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.
  • All in-person businesses, such as retail, may operate at only 50 percent of capacity.
  • Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.  Outdoor facilities and classes are permitted but participants must wear masks.
  • All in-person businesses in the entertainment industry serving the public within a building or indoor defined area, including but not limited to theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, arcades, casinos, bowling alleys, private clubs, and other such venues, are prohibited from operating.
  • Voluntary activities sponsored by or approved by school systems are suspended but may be held virtually.
  • All sports at K-12 public schools, non-public schools, private schools, and club, travel, and recreational, intermural, and intramural sports are “paused.”
  • Professional and collegiate sports activities may continue, subject to current CDC and Department of Health guidelines, but spectators are prohibited.

The governor said his administration has engaged state and local law enforcement and other state agencies to help enforce these new requirements.  These steps are necessary, he said, because “This virus continues to rage in Pennsylvania.”  He also noted that his latest COVID-19 test was negative.

To learn more, go here to see the governor’s news release about the new mitigation efforts; go here to see the governor’s limited-time mitigation order; and go here to see Department of Health Secretary Levine’s limited-time mitigation order.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • Pennsylvania’s number of new COVID-19 cases was in five figures yesterday for the sixth time in the past eight days.
  • The state’s number of COVID-19 cases to date now exceeds 450,000.
  • Pennsylvania’s overall COVID-19 death toll surpassed 12,000 on Thursday after one of the highest single-day totals the state has suffered since the pandemic began.

Around the State

  • Pennsylvania State MapThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that “Allegheny County on Wednesday reported 34 new coronavirus deaths, a record for a single day, and 727 additional coronavirus cases.”
  • “Uniontown Hospital has run out of intensive care unit or medical/surgical beds available as it deals with a flood of Covid-19 cases that has hit Fayette County over the last week and forced a significant number of staff to quarantine or isolate due to the virus,” reports the Pittsburgh Business Times.   The report continues that “The 145-bed hospital has about 50 Covid-19 patients, up from 25 or so a week ago and the previous peak, earlier in the pandemic, of about a dozen.  The ICU unit has been completely converted to COVID-19 care and a secondary ICU unit has been set up within the hospital, and there are COVID-19 patients on multiple floors and in multiple areas.  Patients are being held in the emergency department sometimes until a bed opens up.”
  • With a 43 percent test positivity rate last week, Lycoming County officials, reports the web site northcentralpa.com, are

…putting tighter restrictions on accessibility to public buildings and services.  To enter any county facility, a person must be masked.  “We are not making exceptions,” said Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk. “We’re going to ask you to go back to your vehicle.  We’ll give you a sheet to make the calls that you need to make to make an arrangement with the particular office in the courthouse, to discuss how you want to transact your business.”

Visitors to the courthouse will have to make appointments before arriving.  No extra family members will be permitted into courtroom proceedings.  Essentially the courthouse will be operating on a “call before you come” basis.

  • On Wednesday the New York Times published an interactive map that presented the degree to which hospital intensive care units across the country are occupied largely because of COVID-19 patients (based on a data set made available by the federal government on Monday).  Among the Pennsylvania areas showing especially high occupation rates were:
    • Easton – 104 percent (all ICU beds occupied plus one patient)
    • Allentown – 90 percent of 135 ICU beds occupied
    • Norristown – 95 percent of 27 ICU beds occupied
    • Erie – 94 percent of 111 ICU beds occupied
    • Philadelphia – 84 percent of 1113 ICU beds occupied
    • Pittsburgh – 87 precent of 698 ICU beds occupied
    • Harrisburg – 85 percent of 67 ICU beds occupied
    • Reading – 90 percent of 60 ICU beds occupied
    • Lancaster – 87 percent of 72 ICU beds occupied

Federal Update

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

See the announcement (ZIP) for more information about assignment of these new diagnosis and procedure codes under the ICD-10 Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG).

CMS COVID-19 Stakeholder Calls 

CMS hosts recurring stakeholder engagement sessions to share information about the agency’s response to COVID-19.  These sessions are open to members of the health care community and are intended to provide updates, share best practices among peers, and offer participants an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

COVID-19 Office Hours Call

Tuesday, December 22 at 5:00 (eastern)

Toll Free Dial In:  833-614-0820; Access Passcode:  3968359

Audio Webcast link:  go here.

Conference lines are limited so CMS encourages interested parties to join via audio webcast.

To listen to the audio files and read the transcripts for past stakeholder calls, go here.

Department of Health and Human Services

Food and Drug Administration

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Congressional Research Service

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