COVID-19 update for Friday, May 8 as of 2:30 p.m.
- Governor Wolf announced that 13 more counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, will move to the yellow phase and be permitted to reopen partially next Friday, May 15.
- Yesterday Governor Wolf extended his stay-at-home order for counties in the COVID-19 red phase until June 4 and issued an executive order for counties in the yellow phase that began reopening today.
- The state also issued guidance for businesses in the yellow phase that are permitted to reopen and updated guidance for life-sustaining businesses.
Department of Human Services
- DHS sent a message to all county administrators of Medical Assistance Transportation Programs, brokers for those programs, and contracted transit agencies working for the program advising of the precautions necessary to ensure the safe provision of non-emergency medical transportation services during the COVID-19 emergency.
- DHS has announced to users of its Medical Assistance Transportation Program that use of the program is limited during the COVID-19 emergency. The announcement addresses the circumstances under which program participants will or will not be permitted to use the service, what they need to do to use the service, and what they need to do if they are not permitted to use the service in the usual manner.
- DHS has issued guidance to health care providers to remind them that non-emergency ambulance transportation may be used when medically necessary to transport Medicaid beneficiaries in the fee-for-service and HealthChoices programs to medical appointments when transportation through the Medical Assistance Transportation Program is not available or appropriate based on COVID-19 screening criteria. See those screening criteria here.
Department of Health
The Department of Health has posted an application for nursing homes to request civil money penalty reinvestment funds to purchase adaptive technologies such as iPads, tablets, webcams, and accessories to facilitate virtual and social telehealth visits between residents and their families while visitor restrictions are in place. See an FAQ prepared by CMS here.
Department of Health Daily Briefing
- Between the continued reconciliation of recent death data and new deaths, the state reported an increase of 200 deaths from COVID-19. This brings the state-wide total to 3616.
- Continued death data reconciliation and new cases have raised Pennsylvania’s total deaths from COVID-19 nearly 50 percent in the past week.
- Nearly 11,000 long-term-care facility residents and more than 1500 people who work at 522 such facilities in 44 counties have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Long-term-care facility residents currently account for 68 percent of all COVID-19 deaths state-wide.
- More than 3500 health care workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Department of State
The Department of State has published a notice that it will permit students about to graduate from physical therapist and physical therapist assistant programs during the COVID-19 emergency to take their licensure examination before they graduate.
The Senate will be in session on May 11, 12, and 13. The House is not expected to return to session until May 18.
Department of Health and Human Services
- HHS has updated its general distribution FAQ for the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund. The updated FAQ includes items that are identified as new. Among other things, it clarifies that HHS will not generally seek to recoup payments as long as providers’ lost revenue and increased expenses are greater than any payments in question. The FAQ also instructs hospitals on what they should do if they believe they received a mistaken payment or an overpayment.
- HHS’s Office of the Inspector General has updated its FAQ on how it will apply its administrative enforcement authority to arrangements directly connected to the COVID-19 emergency. The new guidance specifically outlines conditions under which a clinical lab could offer remuneration to a retail pharmacy for costs incurred running test sites during the COVID-19 emergency.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- CMS has added the QW modifier to Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes U0002 and 87635, both of which involve testing for COVID-19. The notice is relevant for labs that have a current Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate of waiver and bill for Medicare services.
- CMS has posted a video with answers to common questions about the expanded Medicare telehealth services benefit under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act.
- CMS has published a notice that Medicare pharmacies and other suppliers may temporarily enroll as independent clinical diagnostic laboratories to help address COVID-19 testing.
- In the past week CMS issued six section 1135 waivers to give states greater flexibility to serve their Medicaid beneficiaries during the COVID-19 emergency. The states receiving waivers this week are Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Maryland, New York, and Washington.
Food and Drug Administration
- The FDA has posted a letter to caregivers warning that certain respirators from China may not provide adequate protection. The letternotes that the FDA has reissued its emergency use authorization (EUA) for non-NIOSH-approved disposable filtering facepiece respirators manufactured in China to revise one of the eligibility criteria and includes a link to an updated list of authorized respirators.
- The FDA has issued an EUA for a specific commercial product for use in decontaminating compatible N95 or N95-compatible respirators.
- The FDA has issued a warning to health care providers about the risk of misinterpreting hydrogen peroxide indicator colors for vapor sterilization. During the COVID-19 epidemic, the FDA warns, “…health care facilities are rapidly adopting conservation practices, including decontaminating disposable compatible N95 and N95-equivalent respirators for single-user reuse. Reprocessing staff may be using sterilization systems for the first time or concurrently using sterilization systems from different manufacturers. If staff assume that all manufacturers use the same color code to validate sterilization, they may mistakenly release contaminated devices for reuse.”
- The FDA has issued an EUA for a specific commercial diagnostic test for COVID-19 that is the first authorized use of CRISPR technology for an infectious disease test.
- The FDA has issued an EUA for the first diagnostic test for COVID-19 using at-home collection of saliva specimens.
- The FDA has issued four EUAs for specific commercial diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Find them here, here, here, and here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has issued guidance on how laboratories, including hospital laboratories, should report the results of their COVID-19 testing to their local or state health department. The guidance includes specific information about the formats and codes labs should use when submitting their data.
National Institutes of Health
- The NIH announced that clinical trial testing has begun on antiviral remdesivir plus the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib for COVID-19. The trial is now enrolling hospitalized adults and is expected to be undertaken at approximately 100 U.S. and international sites and involve more than 1000 participants.
- The NIH announced its collaboration on a research survey to examine the impact of COVID-19 on rare diseases communities.
Resources to Consult
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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