COVID-19 Update: Wednesday, July 15

The following is the latest information from the state and federal government as of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15.

Pennsylvania Update

SNAP Advocacy

SNAP has endorsed a federal House bill, HR 7606, that would delay implementation of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Medicaid fiscal accountability regulation (MFAR) until the Government Accountability Office has an opportunity to assess its impact on individual states and identify the Medicaid transparency issues that need to be addressed.  SNAP called on CMS to withdraw this proposed rule in a January letter.  The MFAR Transparency Act, sponsored by representatives Roger Williams (R-TX) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), also would prevent implementation of MFAR without specific authorization from Congress.  See SNAP’s letter to the bill’s sponsors here.

Governor Wolf

Governor Wolf announced new mitigation efforts to attempt to stem the rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the state.  These guidelines impose new limits on bars, restaurants, private catered events, nightclubs, other events and gatherings, and gyms and fitness facilities and include a renewed call for businesses to perform as much work remotely as possible.  Learn more from this announcement from the governor’s office, the governor’s executive order, and an order from the Secretary of Health.

Department of Health

The Department of Health issued a memo to hospitals discussing the state’s plan to help hospitals comply with new federal data reporting guidelines.  The department is working with its data vendor to update the data reporting system so that the department will be able to take over reporting on behalf of all Pennsylvania hospitals.  In the interim, hospitals must continue reporting daily to the state’s data vendor to comply with the department’s mandatory reporting order and also must use the federal TeleTracking system or other approved method to submit their data directly to the federal government if they want to continue to have their data considered in federal COVID-related distributions of resources and support.  As a reminder, on July 10 the Department of Health revised its reporting order, including a reduction of the state’s mandatory reporting frequency from three times a day to once a day at 8 a.m.

Department of Health – by the numbers

  • In the past two days Pennsylvania’s new case count has again climbed very high in comparison to the numbers for the past six weeks.  The new death count remains relatively modest.
  • More than one-third of yesterday’s new cases came from Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, with nearly twice as many from Allegheny as from Philadelphia.
  • The growing number of new cases is not resulting in significant increases in the number of Pennsylvanians hospitalized for COVID-19 or breathing with the help of a machine.
  • Currently unoccupied are 34 percent of state hospitals’ acute-care beds, 38 percent of their ICU beds, 59 percent of their pediatric beds, 37 percent of their pediatric ICU beds, and 63 percent of their airborne isolation rooms.  Many of these numbers have been fluctuating a few points a day over the past week.

Department of Human Services

DHS has selected the health systems and academic medical centers that will participate in Pennsylvania’s Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP), which will directly support COVID-19 continued readiness and response planning in long-term residential care facilities, seek to improve quality of care related to infection prevention, expand COVID-19 testing, and work to facilitate continuity of care and services provided by long-term care facilities in an attempt to mitigate the risk of spread of COVID-19 to staff or residents.  Learn more about the program and see a list of the organizations chosen to participate in the program in this DHS announcement.

Department of Community and Economic Development

The Department of Community and Economic Development has announced the launch of the “COVID-19 Pennsylvania Discoveries:  Responding to SARS-CoV-2 Through Innovation & Commercialization Program.”  The program seeks to support the rapid advancement of safe, effective, and commercially available vaccines, treatments, and therapeutics in response to COVID-19.  It is a $10 million grant program, individual awards are limited to $1 million (matching funds are required), and proposals are due by July 24.  Eligible applicants include colleges and universities, businesses, non-profit research institutions, economic development organizations, and academic medical centers.  To learn more about the program and the application and proposal processes, see this program guidelines document.

Federal Update

Department of Health and Human Services

  • HHS has implemented new data reporting requirements for hospitals that took effect today. In some respects, these requirements differ significantly from recent practices.  Go here to see the detailed HHS document “COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs For Hospitals, Hospital Laboratory, and Acute Care Facility Data Reporting.”
  • HHS’s Health Resources and Services Administration has posted a fact sheet on the Provider Relief Fund’s next distribution for Medicaid and CHIP providers. The fact sheet includes information about eligibility criteria and application requirements.  Applications are due July 20.
  • HHS has made three additions to its CARES Act Provider Relief Fund FAQ. All are marked “7/14/2020.”  Providers should go here and review the changes carefully.
  • HHS announced a large-scale procurement of rapid point-of-care diagnostic test instruments and tests to be distributed to nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspot areas. This initiative has been described as a one-time procurement of devices and tests targeted to facilitate on-site testing among nursing home residents and staff.  Distribution will begin next week.  Learn more from this HHS announcement.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

  • The CMS online publication MLN Matters has published the article “Quarterly Update for Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule and Laboratory Services Subject to Reasonable Charge Payment.” Providers can learn about COVID-19 codes 87426, 0223U and 0224U.
  • CMS and the CDC are holding a national webinar on “Establishing an Infection Prevention Program in a Nursing Home, With an Emphasis on COVID-19” on Thursday, July 16 at 4:00 (eastern). Advance Registration Required:  Register here.  This webinar is open to nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff members, and others interested in nursing home infection prevention in the era of COVID-19.

Food and Drug Administration

  • The FDA has added dexamethasone sodium phosphate to the lists of drugs for temporary compounding by outsourcing facilities and pharmacy compounders during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These updates help address shortages and access concerns affecting some drugs urgently needed for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
  • The FDA has issued emergency use authorizations (EUA) for three commercial diagnostic tests for COVID-19. Find them here, here, and here.
  • The FDA has issued EUAs for two commercial serology tests for COVID-19. Find them here and here.
  • The FDA has added a new device to its list of authorized ventilator accessories: a CPAP mask that has been modified by combining it with an N95 mask.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Internal Revenue 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


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Filed in Coronavirus, COVID-19.

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