The following is the latest COVID-19 information from Pennsylvania state and federal regulators and others as of 4:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3.
The Governor Wolf/Department of Health Daily Briefing
- Governor Wolf recommended that all Pennsylvanians wear masks outside the home. He elaborates on this recommendation in a news release.
- The Department of Health offers guidance on homemade masks on its web site.
- The number of new COVID-19 cases rose 16 percent over yesterday’s total of new cases.
- 63 Pennsylvania counties now have at least one case, as do 12 percent of the state’s nursing homes.
- State-wide deaths have climbed past 100.
- 78 percent of hospitalized patients have been 50 years of age or older and 50 percent have been more than 65.
- 241 patients have been treated in ICUs and 147 have required the assistance of a ventilator.
- 419 of the state’s total cases have been health care workers – just less than five percent of total cases.
Department of Health
The Department of Health has updated its guidance to hospitals to include information on steps hospitals should take when a need arises to use new space or alter or renovate existing space in their response to COVID-19. Department approval is not needed to take these actions as long as hospitals maintain the documentation discussed in the guidance document.
Department of Human Services
DHS’s today announced the launch of a statewide support and referral helpline that will operate 24/7 to assist Pennsylvanians struggling with anxiety and other challenging emotions due to the COVID-19 emergency and refer them to community-based resources that can further help to meet individual needs. The toll-free number for the helpline, which is up and running, is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
Department of State
The Department of State has issued a temporary waiver of the requirement that applicants for a temporary respiratory therapist permit be within 30 days of their anticipated graduation date. Instead, for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, students in respiratory care education programs who wish to apply for a temporary permit must be within 90 days of their anticipated graduation date. Those impending graduates who already applied for a full license but cannot take their exam because of the closure of test centers may now apply for a temporary permit.
Department of Labor
The Labor Department has published a program letter with a summary of key unemployment insurance provisions of the CARES Act and guidance regarding temporary emergency state staffing flexibility.
Federal Communications Commission
The FCC has adopted a $200 million telehealth program to support provider responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The money will help providers purchase telecommunications, broadband connectivity, and devices necessary for providing telehealth services. See the FCC’s news release and its formal report and order.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The CDC has issued new guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment when caring for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
- CDC has published interim infection prevention and control recommendations for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- The CDC has updated its infection prevention and control guidance for health care facilities.
- CDC has issued interim guidance on the collection and submission of postmortem specimens from persons with known or suspected COVID-19.
- The CDC has published guidance for certifying deaths due to COVID-19.
Food and Drug Administration
- The FDA has introduced updated guidance to address the urgent need for blood during the COVID-19 pandemic, concluding that some current donor eligibility criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply.
- The FDA has published a final guidance document for industry addressing alternative procedures for blood and blood components during the COVID-19 emergency.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- CMS has issued new guidance to long-term care facilities to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
- CMS has clarified for providers that the expanded ability to bill for telehealth services does not include any billing changes for institutional claims. This corrects a prior message that appeared in CMS’s March 31, 2020 Special Edition.
Department of Health and Human Services
- HHS’s Office of Civil Rights has announced that it will not impose penalties for violations of certain provisions of the HIPAA privacy rule against health care providers or their business associates for the good faith uses and disclosures of protected health information by business associates for public health and health oversight activities during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. See the Office of Civil Rights announcement of this temporary policy and a pre-publication version of the formal notice of this policy that will appear shortly in the Federal Register.
- Along with the Department of Justice, HHS has announced that the two agencies have ordered the distribution of medical supplies that in their judgment were being hoarded. The federal government paid fair market value for 192,000 N95 masks, nearly 600,000 pairs of medical grade gloves, and 130,000 other types of masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, and other supplies and is sending these supplies to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York state Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The White House
Resources to Consult
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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