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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 in Coronavirus, COVID-19.

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