The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania’s state government as of 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 23.
Governor Wolf has issued an executive order about regulatory relief post-COVID-19, calling on state agencies to recommend actions to reduce or eliminate regulatory impediments to economic, health and safety, and employment recovery. The order, directed at all departments, offices, boards, commissions, and councils under the governor’s jurisdiction, applies to all regulatory statutes or parts thereof temporarily suspended under 35 Pa. C.S. § 7301(f) from March 6, 2020 to the present and to all regulations or parts thereof temporarily suspended under 35 Pa. C.S. § 7301(f) from March 6, 2020 to the present. Agencies that suspended regulations are directed to evaluate the legal, administrative, public health and safety, and fiscal effects of maintaining the suspensions outside of the COVID-19 disaster emergency; to recommend whether the suspension should be made permanent and which regulations should lapse after COVID-19; and to outline the actions necessary to make permanent any recommended changes. The agencies are directed to complete this work by May 4. To learn more, see the governor’s executive order in the April 24, 2021 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, pages 9 and 10 (pages 2259 and 2260 in the bulletin).
Department of Health
The Department of Health has updated its alert explaining its decision to follow federal guidance and temporarily direct providers to stop administering the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine. Changes are highlighted in yellow.
Department of Health – by the numbers
- The daily number of new COVID-19 cases, while still very high, has fallen slightly in the past week.
- The number of COVID-19 deaths, which had been declining even amid rising case counts, has been much higher over the past two weeks.For the week from April 9 through April 16 the state’s overall COVID-19 test positivity rate was 9.6 percent, up slightly from 9.5 percent last week.Four counties currently have a positivity rate lower than five percent, down from seven last week and 10 the week before; only one county has a rate greater than 20 percent, the same situation as the past two weeks.Three counties are currently experiencing low levels of community transmission of COVID-19, the same as last week but down from five the week before that; nine counties are experiencing moderate levels of community transmission, down from 14 last week and 17 the week before; and 55 counties are currently experiencing substantial levels of community transmission, up from 50 counties last week and 45 the week before.
- The number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized with COVID-19, in hospital ICUs because of COVID-19, and on ventilators because of COVID-19 is slightly higher than it was a week ago but is down over the past three days.
- Currently, 17 percent of adult ICU beds in the state are unoccupied, as are 14 percent of medical/surgical beds, 11 percent of pediatric ICU beds, 22 percent of pediatric beds, and 33 percent of airborne isolation units.
- Pennsylvania passed the three million mark for fully vaccinated residents today according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. An additional 471,000 people have been vaccinated in Philadelphia, according to the city’s Department of Health.
Department of Human Services
On March 15 the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) raised Medicare payments for administering each dose of COVID-19 vaccines to $40. Now, DHS has decided to raise the Medicaid fee to the same $40, effective March 15. Go here to see the Medical Assistance Bulletin announcing the fee increase.
Around the State
- PennLive reports that the state Senate has extended its temporary rule enabling senators to participate in the chamber’s proceedings remotely during the COVID-19 emergency. A previous extension expired on March 31 and this one lasts until May 31.
- Acting Department of Health Secretary Alison Beam received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday. She tweeted a photo.
- Demand for COVID-19 vaccines is not strong in pockets of Pennsylvania, including Erie, according to the Erie Times-News; in the Pittsburgh area, as reported by KDKA; in Bradford, Lebanon, York, and Adams counties and parts of Dauphin, Mifflin, and Lycoming counties, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer; and in Philadelphia, Philly Voice reports.
- In response to declining demand for vaccines and the continuing challenge of vaccinating hard-to-reach people, the state intends to re-engage with the kinds of smaller providers, like neighborhood pharmacies and physician offices, that it cut off from vaccine supplies early in the year amid a change of direction in which it focused on working with larger providers that could vaccinate more people in shorter periods of time. The AP explains.