COVID-19 Update: March 24, 2020

The following is a summary of the major COVID-19-related developments in Pennsylvania as of 4:45 today.

For your convenience, copies of our daily updates are also posted to the SNAP Blog available here.

State Updates

The State Legislature

House Chamber of the State HouseThe legislature continues to deliberate on a number of measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.  Among the issues being discussed between the administration and legislature are:

  • Declaring a public health emergency and providing funding to respond to the crisis.
  • Advancing telemedicine legislation.
  • Amending the rules of unemployment compensation during an emergency declaration such as easing work search requirements and extending the length of time that benefits are available.
  • Providing assistance to small businesses and non-profits through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority.
  • Amending the state’s election code to move the primary election to June 2.
  • Amending the school code to protect employees and address various changes in state education requirements.

Department of Health Daily Briefing

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Rachel Levine, M.D., provided her daily COVID-19 briefing.  She reported that the number of cases in the state is doubling every two to three days and she expects the pandemic to spread to additional rural counties.

The state is sharing personal protective equipment and ventilators with providers as providers request them and its stock is being replenished by the federal government.  Despite this, the state continues to seek to purchase more N-95 masks and ventilators.

Direct caregivers, she warned, cannot use homemade masks.  They are not effective.

Turnaround time for COVID-19 testing in the state lab and most hospital labs is 24 hours.  The major commercial testing companies are experiencing a backlog.

Health care personnel are being given priority for COVID-19 testing but only if they show symptoms.

While the state is discussing adapting facilities for post-acute care and other COVID-19-related purposes, Secretary Levine said she thinks it is unlikely the state would reopen Hahnemann Hospital.

People with chronic medical conditions such as lupus are starting to report trouble getting drugs like chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine because of unsubstantiated suggestions that they can help fight COVID-19.  The Department of Health and Department of Human Services are talking to pharmacies about this and working to ensure access for patients who need these drugs for medically approved purposes.

The state is not prepared to consider easing its stay-in-place and non-essential business closure orders at this time.

Department of Human Services

The Department of Human Services (DHS), Office of Child Development and Early Learning has issued two documents.  The first is titled “Infant Toddler Early Intervention Procedures during COVID-19 pandemic” and it describes how early intervention services can be delivered while face-to-face interactions are limited during the COVID-19 crisis.  See the document here.

The second addresses child care program closures, waivers for child care programs to remain open, safety recommendations, and resources for workers who lose their jobs because of facility closures.  Find that document here.

Home Care, Home Health, and Hospice Document Recirculated

On March 21, DOH published COVID-19 emergency response information for home care agencies, home health care agencies, and hospices.  Today, in an effort to broaden the reach of that document, DHS shared it via its long-term care listservs.

Federal Updates

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

CMS issued an FAQ explaining requirements for and distribution of the 6.2% enhanced FMAP stipulated in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  States should expect to see their first payments no later than tomorrow.  The document explains that the enhanced FMAP doesn’t apply to expansion population, though it does apply to DSH.  It will flow through to the CHIP enhanced FMAP calculation but not in equal percentage point values for all states and the 100% cap on matching remains in effect. States will not need to submit a state plan amendment in order to receive the funding.  The complete guidance document is available here.

Late yesterday the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Center for Clinical Standards and Quality/Quality Safety & Oversight Group issued a 28-page memo to state survey agency directors on the subject of prioritization of survey activities.  During the three-week period following the March 13 declaration of a national emergency, state survey agencies are to have as their priorities complaint/facility-reported incident surveys, targeted infection control surveys, and self-assessments.  They are not authorized to perform surveys on long-term-care facilities, hospitals, home health agencies, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and hospices.  See the CMS guidance letter.

CMS also has issued 11 more section 1135 Medicaid waivers.  They are summarized in a CMS news release.

Health Resources and Services Administration

Today the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $100 million in grants to 1381 health centers to address screening and testing needs, purchase medical supplies, and boost capacity in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  See an HHS news release here.

National Institutes of Health

The NIH is launching training for health care workers who interact with COVID-19 patients.  The worker-based program will include a web site with training resources.  Learn more from an NIH news release that describes the new initiative.

Food and Drug Administration

The FDA has updated its FAQ on diagnostic testing with new information for providers having trouble obtaining viral transport media.  Read it here.

The FDA also has issued a safety alert addressing the use of fecal microbiota for transplantation and additional safety protections involving COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2.  Find it here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has issued new guidance to state and local agencies and service providers on working with their homeless population.  Find it here.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has updated its COVID-19 pandemic advisory.  See the updated advisory here.

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

Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Main COVID-19 Page FAQ


Please let us know if you have any questions or need additional information or resources.




Filed in Coronavirus, COVID-19, Federal Medicaid issues, Pennsylvania Medicaid coronavirus, Pennsylvania Medicaid COVID-19.

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