Minnesota House passes new protection for front-line workers
2:05 PM CT on 4/7/20
(AP) Minnesota's coronavirus infection count surpassed 1,000 Tuesday, as lawmakers moved closer to passing legislation to ensure first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19 qualify for workers compensation, even if they can't prove they caught the virus at work.
Minnesota's workers compensation laws normally require an employee to prove they got sick or were injured on the job. The legislation changes that requirement for first responders and healthcare workers, as well as child care workers who serve the families of front-line employees.
“It will be very difficult for some of our first responders to be able to establish exactly how they got COVID-19, but we know they're at much higher risk for contracting this disease because of the work that they're doing for us,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said on a conference call with reporters. "They are putting themselves on the line out there."
Under the new rules, a doctor's diagnosis of COVID-19 without a test to confirm it would be acceptable.
“People on the front lines in this pandemic need to have the support of all of us," Democratic House Majority Ryan Winkler said. “... We need to make sure that as they go into harm's way, as they step in to help people without knowing if they have COVID-19 or any other health condition, that we are there to support them."
Hortman and Winkler acknowledged that changing the rules is likely to impose new costs on the workers compensation system, that they don't know how many claims will be filed, and that lawmakers have yet to figure how they'll pay for it. They're hoping to use some of the $2.1 billion that Minnesota is getting in federal stimulus money to cover part of the new costs.
Geisinger Health Plan waives out-of-pockets costs for COVID-19 treatment
2:00 PM CT on 4/7/20
Geisinger Health Plan members will not pay any out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment after testing positive and being hospitalized at an in-network facility.
The plan had previously waived out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing. Outpatient visits may be subject to cost-sharing depending on the member's benefits.
“As Geisinger continues to monitor and respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic, we want our health plan members to know that cost will not be a barrier to receiving inpatient care when they need it most,” said Dr. John Bulger, Geisinger Health Plan chief medical officer.
Paul recovered from coronavirus; volunteering at hospital
1:33 PM CT on 4/7/2020
(AP) Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he has recovered from the coronavirus and has started volunteering at a hospital in his Kentucky hometown.
The Republican lawmaker tested positive for the virus in March, becoming the first case of COVID-19 in the Senate.
“I appreciate all the best wishes I have received," Paul said Tuesday. “I have been retested and I am negative. I have started volunteering at a local hospital to assist those in my community who are in need of medical help, including coronavirus patients. Together we will overcome this.”
Paul, an eye surgeon, is volunteering at TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green while the Senate is on a break amid the coronavirus outbreak. Paul worked in emergency rooms early in his career as a physician, his office said.
The hospital's CEO, Mike Sherrod, said Tuesday that the senator is “lifting the spirits of patients and our colleagues” by volunteering.
Senate Democrats propose hazard pay, recruitment incentives for healthcare workers
12:24 PM CT on 4/7/2020
Senate Democrats on Tuesday announced legislation that would guarantee pay raises for frontline healthcare workers and a $15,000 signing bonus to help recruit health and home care workers and first responders.
The so-called “Heroes Fund” would increase pay for essential workers $13 per hour from January 27 until December 31. The wage increases would be capped at $25,000 per year for workers earning less than $200,000 per year. Backpay would apply for hours previously worked.
The fund would also provide for a $15,000 bonus to help recruit healthcare workers, home health workers and first responders. Additional death benefits would be distributed to the families essential workers who die fighting COVID-19.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not commit to oppose a fourth COVID-19 relief bill if it does not include hazard pay for frontline workers, but said it is “one of our very, very highest priorities.” Schumer also declined to provide a cost estimate for the measure.
The legislation was introduced by Schumer, Senate health committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
Encompass Health provides additional paid time off for front-line workers
11:30 AM CT on 4/7/2020
Front-line healthcare workers at Encompass Health can earn up to two weeks of additional paid time off in recognition of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The dedication of our team to providing incredible patient care in our hospitals and in our patients’ homes across the country during this pandemic makes all of us very proud,” said Mark Tarr, CEO of Encompass Health.
Texas Children's Hospital gives employees stipend during crisis
11:00 AM CT on 4/7/2020
Texas Children's Hospital is providing a $500 stipend to full-time employees and a $250 stipend for part-time employees.
“As your President and CEO, I will do everything possible to take care of you, so that you can continue to take care of our patients and families until we are through this pandemic,” said CEO Mark A. Wallace in a statement.
AHA asks HHS to suspend some requirements for providers
10:15 AM CT on 4/7/2020
The American Hospital Association is asking HHS to suspend some requirements for providers during the pandemic.
In a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the AHA asked to delay audits related to the Medicare cost report, waive some telehealth provisions, ensure teaching hospitals can increase their bed capacity without penalty and other requests.
Mount Sinai med school allows students to graduate early
9:30 AM CT on 4/7/2020
The Icahn Institute of Medicine at Mount Sinai is allowing fourth year medical students to graduate early to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students will start in short-term positions after graduating on April 15. Residencies begin July 1.
“This is definitely not how I envisioned my graduation but I just really want to help alleviate the intense pressure on clinical staff working on the front lines," said Katleen Lozada, a fouth year student who signed up for early graduation. "What lies ahead is somewhat unknown but most of all I am looking forward to helping in whatever capacity is needed.”
Investment bank to provide free financial advisory services to small hospitals
9:00 AM CT on 4/7/2020
HilltopSecurities, a Dallas-based municipal investment bank, will provide free financial advisory services to community hospitals with 75 beds or less in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
“The public depends on our healthcare professionals and their organizations in our time of need. While HilltopSecurities cannot assist doctors, nurses or technicians in their health profession, we can assist their hospital or health system in helping to address the immediate financial needs caused by its impact,” said CEO Brad Winges.
DMC Sinai-Grace night shift nurses sent home after voicing PPE concerns
7:32 PM CT on 4/6/2020
(Crain's Detroit Business) A group of emergency nurses at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit were told to go home Monday in the early hours after protesting working conditions, poor patient and staff safety and lack of personal protective equipment.
A statement by a DMC spokesman said Sinai-Grace is using PPEs as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state.
"We know this is a very challenging time for caregivers. Our doctors and nurses continue to demonstrate their commitment and dedication to our patients," DMC spokesman Brian Taylor said in an email.
"We are disappointed that last night a very small number of nurses at Sinai-Grace Hospital staged a work stoppage in the hospital refusing to care for patients. Despite this, our patients continued to receive the care they needed as other dedicated nurses stepped in to provide care," he said.
Jamie Brown, president of the Michigan Nurses Association and a critical care nurse at Ascension Borgess, said the MNA is disappointed DMC sent the nurses home rather than listening to their concerns.
"Nurses around the state are desperately doing everything we can to keep our patients and ourselves safe," Brown said in an email. "Eventually, a tipping point is reached where the best thing any RN can do for their patients, their families, and their coworkers is to speak out rather than remain silent. Until hospitals start taking the concerns of nurses seriously, it's only a matter of time before more actions like these occur. It is absolutely essential that hospitals start working with nurses and stop silencing our voices."
Vanderbilt, University of Michigan launch staffing project
5:39 PM CT on 4/6/2020
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, University of Michigan and PLS Collaborate have joined forces to help hospitals determine how to appropriately staff their facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
Over nine days, medical students, software developers and other volunteers created a COVID-19 toolkit to help hospitals of any size predict their staffing and personal protective equipment needs. Hospitals can also use the free site to set up a response plan or find re-education tools for their staff.
HHS purchases 5-minute coronavirus tests for public labs
2:47 PM CT on 4/6/2020
HHS is buying new COVID-19 tests for state public health labs, the agency said Monday.
The point-of-care test can deliver results in 13 minutes and only requires a facemask and gloves to administer, which should help conserve personal protective equipment, according to the agency.
“This type of rapid, point-of-care test is a critical component of our overall national strategy for testing. It is a special resource that we will prioritize for vulnerable patients whose treatment or isolation require a rapid determination of COVID-19 status, or for outbreak investigations where an immediate result is essential,” said Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Brett Giroir.
Public health agencies have struggled to track and test for COVID-19 since the onset of the outbreak, but experts hope that faster and more widely available testing will help get the virus under control.
AAMC launches COVID-19 clinical guidance hub
2:26 PM CT on 4/6/20
The Association of American Medical Colleges has released an online clinical guidance hub for hospitals and physicians treating patients during the pandemic.
The repository will include information from AAMC's member academic medical centers, affiliated organizations and federal partners. New content will be added regularly.
Adventist Health joins growing number of providers triaging with chatbot tech
1:36 PM CT on 4/6/2020
Adventist Health, Roseville, Calif., launched its COVID-19 Virtual Assistant and Symptom Checker on its website, becoming another hospital or health system adopting chatbot technology to try to become more efficient in treating COVID-19 patients, according to news release.
Other health systems that are using virtual assistants include Memorial Health System, Springfield, Ill., and UCSF Health, San Francisco.
The Adventist tool was developed using guidelines and protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, according to the release.
AHIP deflects AHA requests for higher COVID-19 reimbursement
11:43 AM CT on 4/6/2020
America’s Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Matt Eyles wrote to American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack on Monday to assure insurers’ general support of hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Eyles did not say that plans would support hospitals by increasing payments for COVID-19 care.
Pollack had asked CVS Health and Aetna to increase reimbursement for COVID-19 cases like Congress mandated in Medicare, allow hospitals to opt into periodic interim payments like the CMS has allowed in Medicare, remove some administrative processes, and process claims more quickly.
Eyles said Monday that AHIP members are working to eliminate administrative burdens and expediting claims payments, but did not mention increasing reimbursement or alternate payment mechanisms. Instead, Eyles said AHIP would support AHA in requesting more money from Congress.
“We emphatically supported emergency federal funding in phase three for America’s hospitals and will support additional federal funding in future legislation,” Eyles wrote.
Eyles said a future issue for collaboration could be ensuring businesses continue to keep employees on their private insurance plans, as hospitals depend on higher reimbursement from private plans to compensate for charity care and lower rates paid by government payers.
Hotels volunteer as emergency housing for healthcare workers
11:04 AM CT on 4/6/20
The American Hotel and Lodging Association says 15,000 hotels have signed up for a new initiative to identify spaces that could serve as temporary housing for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis.
The hotels could also be used as emergency care sites or places for the quarantined to stay if needed. The AHLA says the initiative has already found 2.3 million rooms near healthcare facilities.
“The number of hotels wanting to be part of the program is growing by the hour,” said Michael Jacobson, CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association. “Our hotels are answering the call to action, and they want to be helpful to the city and the state.”
How ASCs can help during COVID-19
10:00 AM CT on 4/6/2020
The CMS encouraged ambulatory surgical centers to reach out to local Medicare administrative contractors if they want to provide hospital-like care during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a guidance to ambulatory surgical centers, the agency noted that providers can only enroll in Medicare as an ambulatory surgery center or a hospital during the public health emergency.
“Any ASC that is enrolled as a hospital will have its ASC billing privileges deactivated for the duration of the time it is enrolled as a hospital,” the CMS said.
CMS approves Washington D.C. coronavirus waiver
9:51 AM CT on 4/6/2020
The CMS Friday approved the District of Columbia’s 1135 waiver request, extending emergency regulatory relief to the nation’s capital to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Washington, D.C. can use the waiver to suspend prior authorization requirements for traditional Medicare, temporarily enroll out-of-state providers and pay for care in alternative settings like nursing facilities.
The agency has now approved waivers for 44 states and Washington, D.C.
Trump tempers officials' grave assessments with optimism
8:59 PM CT on 4/5/2020
(AP) The U.S. surgeon general said Sunday that Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation’s infectious disease chief warned that the new coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe.
Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean beginning to turn a corner.
“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at an evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.”
The president also insisted that both assessments from his administration — they came within 12 hours of each other — didn't represent an about-face or were even “that different."
“I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point — and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death — but it's also a point at which things are going to start changing,” Trump said. “We're getting very close to that level right now.”
The president added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents and, hopefully, we can get this over with.”
California county orders all residents to wear masks
6:14 PM CT on 4/5/2020
(AP) Just days after recommending that people wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Riverside County went a step further and ordered all residents to cover their faces when leaving home, as the number of infections and deaths continued to rise across California.
Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the top health officer in the state’s fourth-most populous county, said “not everybody's getting the message” about social distancing while in public, so officials were forced to "change from saying that you should to saying that you must.”
The order issued Saturday also prohibits all gatherings except for family members living in the same home, according to a county statement. Police would enforce the regulations “as they deem necessary,” the statement said.
Serene Weir said many people are wearing masks in her neighborhood in Los Angeles, where officials urged residents to cover their faces but stopped short of requiring it.
“I’m really surprised by the number of people not wearing them," she said. “I think we all need to be doing our part."
Weir, a nurse, sewed her own homemade mask and planned to make at least 100 more to donate to hospitals who lack critical protective gear.
Illinois calls on feds for more ventilators
4:16 PM CT on 4/5/2020
Illinois needs thousands more ventilators than the federal government plans to send and the state is desperately searching for more before its expected peak in coronavirus cases later this month, the governor said Sunday, hours before officials announced the number of people to test positive in the state more than doubled in a week.
Appearing on CNN's “State of the Union” Sunday morning, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he requested 4,000 ventilators from the federal government last Tuesday and has received 450, far short of even the 1,400 ventilators that Vice President Mike Pence said the state needs.
Pritzker, who has been critical of the Trump administration's handling of the pandemic, disputed the president's claim that many states were unprepared.
"If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today, and frankly, very many fewer people would die,” Pritzker said.
Tiger test positive for coronavirus
4:03 PM CT on 4/5/2020
A Bronx Zoo tiger is the latest animal to test positive for COVID-19. The zoo on Sunday said Nadia, a 4-year-old Malaysian tiger had tested positive. She, her sister, two Amur tigers and three lions have all developed dry coughs.
Previously, domestic cats and dogs have tested positive for coronavirus.
The zoo said all its big cats are expected to recover.
Washington state returns ventilators to national stockpile
2:25 pm CT on 4/5/2020
Washington state will return more than 400 ventilators to the strategic national stockpile so they can be sent to New York, Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday.
As New York nears capacity, Inslee said his state didn't need the federally supplied ventilators. Washington purchased 750 ventilators separately, which should arrive in the coming weeks.
No hazard pay for Partners HealthCare staff
1:09 PM CT on 4/5/2020
Partners HealthCare doctors, nurses and other staff who are treating coronavirus patients will not receive hazard pay for their work, according to a report.
In a letter from Partners CEO Dr. Anne Klibanski to her staff, which was obtained by Mother Jones, she praised her colleagues and said the leadership appreciated their "sacrifices" to care for patients. She maintained that the health system is "vigilant in our efforts to help you and your colleagues stay safe and healthy."
Some employees had requested hazard pay for treating patients with the extremely contagious virus.
“We do not calibrate pay and benefits based upon the patients’ condition and for this reason we do not offer hazard or crisis pay," she wrote.
N.Y. may be near COVID-19 apex
12:32 PM CT on 4/5/2020
Coronavirus has hit New York the hardest for most of the U.S.'s outbreak, but the Empire State may be close to its peak.
New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said the state saw 594 deaths over the last 24 hours, fewer than the 630 reported deaths the day before. New hospitalizations were also lower than the day before, 594 compared to 1,095 on Friday.
“We’re looking at this seriously now, because by the data we could be either very near the apex, or the apex could be a plateau, and we could be on that plateau right now,” Cuomo said. “We won’t know until we see the next few days – does it go up, does it go down – but that is what the statisticians will tell you today.”
The state is still close to running out of available ventilators and depleting its personal protective equipment inventory.
Fauci says coronavirus could become seasonal
11:13 AM on 4/5/2020
(AP) Dr. Anthony Fauci says there a very good chance the new coronavirus “will assume a seasonal nature” because it is unlikely to be under control globally.
Fauci is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says the virus is unlikely to be completely eradicated from the planet this year. That means the U.S. could see the “beginning of a resurgence” during the next flu season.
Fauci says the prospect of a resurgence is the reason the U.S. is working so hard to get its preparedness “better than it was.” He says that includes working to develop a vaccine and conducting clinical trials on therapeutic interventions.
Fauci also says states that don’t have stay-at-home orders are not putting the rest of the country at risk as much as they are putting themselves at risk.
Fauci spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
NIH tries to make masks more comfortable for healthcare workers
10:46 AM CT on 4/5/2020
As healthcare workers spend more time under surgical masks and other personal protective equipment, the National Institutes of Health are trying to make that time more comfortable.
NIH released a 3D printed template for a tension release band healthcare workers could add to their surgical masks. It's the second version of the band, and would use half the material as the original, which will make printing faster.
Ensuring non-English speaking residents understand what's at stake
9:12 AM on 4/5/2020
Residents at Harvard Medical School and Mass General Hospital write in Health Affairs that equitable access to information is imperative during the pandemic.
"In Shelby County, Tennessee, parents with limited English proficiency were not well informed about a school worker who was quarantined for COVID-19, while English-speaking parents received the message in a timelier manner...The same is true in Boise, Idaho, where there is very little news in languages other than English. Many are therefore confused about what COVID-19 is and what they should do. In cities and municipalities around the country where public agencies are not prioritizing the translation of outreach materials, important announcements, and guidance about COVID-19 are unlikely to reach people with limited English proficiency.
Surgeon General braces America for deadly week ahead
9:05 AM CT on 4/5/2020
(AP) Surgeon General Jerome Adams is bracing Americans for what he says is going to be "the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives’’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Adams tells "Fox News Sunday’’ that "this is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.’’
He wants to make clear that "it’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.’’
Adams also has a message to governors who haven’t yet imposed shelter-in-place orders in their states. He says the handful of states in that category are states where a large amount of food is produced for the country, and that’s been part of the struggle when it comes to stay-at-home restrictions.
But Adams has a message for those governors: "If you can’t give us a month, give us what you can. Give us a week. Give us whatever you can to stay at home during this particularly tough time when we’re going to be hitting our peak over the next seven to 10 days.’’
COVID-19 testing task force formed in California
8:55 PM CT on 04/04/2020
California Gov. Gavin Newsom formed a COVID-19 testing task force that aims to create a five-fold increase in the number of daily tests performed, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Newsom also said he “owns” testing lapses in the state that have made it difficult to track the deadly virus.
The Times also said there are 2,300 patients hospitalized in the state and 3,267 people hospitalized that are suspected of having COVID-19, but haven't gotten test results.
Sen. Chuck Schumer requests military leader be put in charge of COVID-19 logistics
8:22 PM CT on 04/04/2020
Sen. Chuck Schumer repeated his call for President Donald Trump to fully invoke the Defense Production Act to improve the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a CNN interview, the Minority Leader also urged the president to put a military leader in charge of the supply chain and other logistics in the battle against the virus.
"The DPA allows a military leader, the military, to take over the factories and supply chains and then the same person can distribute the materials, the PPEs, the ventilators, the masks," Schumer said, according to a transcript of the interview.
Hackensack University Medical Center converts cafeteria, other space to clinical care
7:15 PM CT on 04/04/2020
Hackensack University Medical Center has expanded overall capacity 23% by redesigning unused patient care areas.
As part of that, the cafeteria will operate as a 74-bed specialized care unit for patients infected with the new coronavirus.
“We are proud of the innovation underway at Hackensack Meridian Health to adapt rapidly and effectively to this historic global pandemic,’’ said Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, in a release. “This impressive expansion at Hackensack University Medical Center is a model of living our mission to transform health care in order to deliver high-quality care for communities.’’
Justice Department won't oppose supply chain collaboration
5:57 PM CT on 04/04/2020
The Justice Department will not challenge McKesson Corp., Owens & Minor, Cardinal Health, Medline Industries, and Henry Schein to participate in efforts to expedite and increase manufacturing, sourcing, and distribution of personal-protective equipment and coronavirus-treatment-related medication, according to a news release.
“These Medical Supplies Distributors should be applauded for their efforts to both assist the United States in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay within the bounds of antitrust law,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. “I also applaud the attorneys and economists of the Antitrust Division, who worked expeditiously to finish in days a review process that ordinarily takes many months.”
The five distributors are working at the direction of the federal government, one of the initiatives being Project Airbridge, which also includes logistics companies.
Detroit teaming with transportation company for $2 rides to test site
4:28 PM CT onn 04/04/2020
The city of Detroit is contracting with transportation coordinator IntelliRide to offer $2 rides for those without cars to the Michigan State Fairgrounds COVID-19 test site, according to Crain's Detroit Business.
The drive-thru site at Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue requires a car. Testing there started more than a week ago, as a coordinated effort between Detroit, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, three health systems and others.
"One of the issues that has been raised with me by a lot of folks in this town is, 'I don't have a car,' " said Mayor Mike Duggan, who spoke during his daily coronavirus press briefing about the new $100,000 deal reached with IntelliRide Friday. "We can't have a standard of health care in this city that those who have cars can get tested and those who don't are just stuck."
Those who need a ride must request one when they call to make an appointment at the testing site through a call center operation provided by Detroit-based Quicken Loans.
Experienced clinicians are valued resource, should be used wisely
3:23 PM CT on 04/04/2020
Three leading researchers in a JAMA viewpoint article argue that extreme care should be taken when employing clinicians in 55 and older for two primary reasons, their clinical expertise and for their leadership skills during a crisis.
"These clinician leaders are an essential and vitally important component of many organizations, especially because many of these older clinicians have experience with disasters, triaging, decision making, and managing staff and resources under times of great stress," the article states.
At the same time, should older nurses and physicians become infected, the effects would move in the opposite direction, "not only in terms of the loss of their clinical expertise and presence when it is needed the most, but the loss of leadership, judgment, and maintaining morale."
China helping N.Y. get 1,000 ventilators
2:23 PM CT on 04/04/2020
(AP) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that China is facilitating the shipment of 1,000 ventilators to his state, as he continues to shop for more of the lifesaving devices ahead of a growing number of coronavirus patients who are expected to need them.
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded a quarter-million, with the death toll climbing past 7,000; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in New York state. Cuomo said the ventilators from China were expected to arrive Saturday.
“This is a big deal and it's going to make a significant difference for us,” Cuomo said, adding that the state of Oregon volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. Cuomo also is looking for ventilators closer to home, and has issued an order that forces even private hospitals in the state to redistribute ventilators to the hospitals most in need.
State pharmacist regulations loosened to help with pandemic
1:41 PM CT on 04/04/2020
State pharmacy boards are relaxing restrictions on pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in order to make it easier to fight the coronavirus epidemic, according to Bloomberg Law.
At least thirteen states have done so, according to Bloomberg, including allowing remote work, giving pharmacists more autonomy, and allowing out-of-state pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to practice locally if licensed elsewhere.
Some states, such as Arizona and California, are also letting out-of-state drug distributors sell products to local pharmacies, which could ease bottlenecks in local supply chains, according to Bloomberg.
University of Illinois, nurses agree on hazard pay
12:16 PM CT on 04/04/2020
The University of Illinois Hospital is increasing pay for more than 900 union nurses amid COVID-19, according to sister publication Crain's Chicago Business.
The Near West Side hospital is among the first medical centers nationwide to provide some workers with differential pay as a result of the pandemic, the hospital and the Illinois Nurses Association said in a joint statement.
“The circumstances in which our nurses and our staff are working today are beyond what any of us anticipated just a short time ago and, quite simply, this is the right thing to do,” CEO Michael Zenn said in the statement'
The Illinois Nurses Association, or INA, has been advocating for higher COVID-19 pay since the start of the outbreak, to recognize “the additional work, stress and risk” members face, Alice Johnson, the union’s executive director, said in the statement.
No hazard pay for Partners Healthcare staff, report says
10:17 AM CT on 04/04/2020
Partners Healthcare told employees on the front lines of treating COVID-19-infected patients that hazard pay will not be provided, according to Mother Jones.
The article states that after Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and CEO, thanked employees for their sacrifices in an email, she said that hazard or crisis pay will not be given out because the not-for-profit system doesn't tie pay to patient acuity.
Mother Jones noted that Klibanski makes at least $2 million a year and possibly much more than that.
Critical-care nurses call for more aggressive PPE response
9:12 AM CT on 04/04/2020
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses says that the lack of personal protective equipment “poses a clear and present danger,” and called on the federal government take over management of PPE distribution and manufacturing.
Without immediate action, limited supplies of personal protective equipment, ventilators and other lifesaving equipment will cause greater loss of life and increase the toll from COVID-19, the AACN said in a release.
As part of that, businesses should donate any excess PPE inventory to hospitals and other healthcare settings, and manufacturers able to produce PPE should begin to do so now to help increase the inventory nationwide, the association said.
The AMA calls off annual meeting
9:33 PM CT on 4/03/2020
The American Medical Association Friday called off its annual meeting, slated for June in Chicago.
“While this was a difficult decision, it was necessary based on the science and guidance around COVID-19. The AMA board does not expect conditions to improve to a point where we could feasibly hold the planned in-person meeting in early June and assemble the quorum necessary to conduct business,” said AMA Board Chair Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld. “Many uncertainties remain for all of us as we move into the next phase of the pandemic, which is likely to put continued extraordinary stress on our patients, practices, training programs, and the entire healthcare system.”
During the annual meeting, the House of Delegates votes on policy positions the AMA should take on everything from gun control to insurance coverage and physician reimbursement.
The AMA board said it is likely to hold a virtual House of Delegates meeting "to conduct essential business and transition leadership--when conditions have improved and a quorum can reasonably be achieved."
Some states receive masks with dry rot, broken ventilators
8:33 PM CT on 4/03/2020
(AP) Some states and cities that have been shipped masks, gloves, ventilators and other essential equipment from the nation’s medical stockpile to fight the coronavirus have gotten an unwelcome surprise: the material is unusable.
Nearly 6,000 medical masks sent to Alabama had dry rot and a 2010 expiration date. More than 150 ventilators sent to Los Angeles were broken and had to be repaired. In Oregon, it was masks with faulty elastic that could cause the straps to snap, exposing medical workers to the disease.
“Several of the shipments we have received from the strategic national stockpile contained (personal protective equipment) well past expiration dates and, while we are being told much of the expired equipment is capable of being used for COVID-19 response, they would not be suitable for use in surgical settings,” Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, said in an email.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association and the former top public health official in the state, said he received multiple emails from hospitals about stockpile shipments of N95 masks in which the rubber bands that hold the mask tight around the user’s face had dry rot. They couldn’t be used unless the bands were replaced.
AMA says med students shouldn't be forced into patient care
7:38 PM CT on 4/03/2020
The American Medical Association Friday published a guidance intended to help hospitals integrate medical students into their COVID-19 care teams.
"As many physicians-in-training will be enlisted to provide direct patient care during this time, it is our responsibility to ensure that they are being protected and have the support they need to safely navigate the pandemic,” said AMA President Dr. Patrice A. Harris."
Among other things, the guidance says medical students should be "free to make their own decisions about participation in direct patient care. Incentives that coerce medical students into direct patient contact should be prohibited."
And continuing to hammer on of its top issues during the pandemic, the AMA said that med students should be "provided proper training and oversight in the use and reuse of personal protective equipment."
New Hampshire hospital receives $50M emergency fund
4:10 PM CT on 4/3/2020
(AP) New Hampshire has set up 14 “flex facilities” to handle hospital overflow if the state sees a surge in COVID-19 cases. The facilities include 1,600 beds, bringing the state’s total bed capacity to more than 5,000. They will not be used unless absolutely necessary, Gov. Chris Sununu said, and the communities hosting them will not face any costs.
“While we hope the day never comes, we do have to be prepared,” he said. “We will be ready.”
The not-for-profit trust that operates Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia and Franklin Regional Hospital is the first beneficiary of a new $50 million emergency fund for healthcare facilities. LRGHealth will get a $5.2 million, zero-interest loan that will help it limit the number of staff facing furloughs, Sununu said. Those furloughed workers also could find temporary jobs through a new Department of Employment Security system to redeploy health care workers.
Sununu issued an executive order allowing towns and cities to eliminate the interest and penalties associated with late property taxes. He also said the state is shifting some of its cash reserves to smaller, local banks to provide them with greater liquidity so they can make loans to small businesses.
Trump administration changes national stockpile definition
3:10 PM CT on 4/3/2020
(AP) The Trump administration abruptly changed its description of the Strategic National Stockpile, the federal government’s repository of life-saving medicines and supplies, to conform with President Donald Trump’s insistence that it is only a short-term backup for states, not a commitment to ensure supplies get quickly to those who need them most during an emergency.
The change, reflected on government websites on Friday, came a day after Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser who has taken a larger role in the coronavirus response, offered a new argument about the stockpile.
After saying that states should use their own stockpiles first, Kushner said, “And the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
Until Friday, the HHS website had reflected a markedly different approach to the stockpile. The “Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out," the website used to say, according to an archived search.
AMA urges national stay-at-home order
2:25 PM CT on 4/3/2020
The American Medical Association on Friday sent a letter to the National Governors Association urging all states to issue statewide stay-at-home orders.
The AMA also called on the NGA and governors to enact emergency orders to close non-essential businesses, limit non-essential activities and prohibit gatherings.
“In this urgent moment, it’s time for all states to start enforcing physical distancing and stay-at-home policies, practices that are crucial in limiting the virus’s long term effects on our country and health care system” said AMA CEO Dr. James L. Madara. “That’s why we’re urging states that haven’t yet implemented such orders take action immediately – because doing so will help slow the spread of the virus and save lives.”
CDC presents new code for COVID-19
1:47 PM CT on 4/3/2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken the "unprecedented" step to introduce a new disease code for COVID-19, the agency said.
Starting on April 1, 2020, providers should use U07.1 for confirmed COVID-19 cases. This new code is a change from guidance released on Feb. 20 and the agency has never before introduced a new code outside of the usual update cycle, the CDC said in a statement.
After April 1, physicians should not use B97.29, which classifies other coronavirus as the cause of diseases.
Blues plans to waive patient costs for COVID-19 treatment
1:01 PM CT on 4/3/2020
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said its locally operated Blues plans have agreed to waive member cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, including inpatient hospital stays, through May 31.
Blues companies waiving cost-sharing for fully insured, individual and Medicare members include those in U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii, as well as the BCBS Federal Employee Program. The companies will reimburse providers at in-network or Medicare rates.
Previously, local Blues plans agreed to waive cost-sharing for diagnostic tests for the coronavirus, eliminate prior authorizations for tests and related services for members diagnosed with COVID-19, and increase access to medications and telehealth. The Blues association includes 36 independent companies.
“It is important that our members feel safe and secure during these unprecedented times, which is why we are committed to ensuring our members who are dealing with a diagnosis of COVID-19 can easily access the care they need,” BCBSA president and CEO Scott Serota said in the announcement.
Gov. Cuomo uses executive order to obtain supplies from private providers
12:31 PM CT on 4/3/2020
(AP) With coronavirus deaths climbing rapidly in New York, the governor announced Friday he will use his authority to take ventilators and protective gear from private hospitals and companies that aren’t using them, complaining that states are competing against each other for vital equipment in eBay-like bidding wars.
“If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The executive order he said he would sign represents one of the most aggressive efforts yet in the U.S. to deal with the kind of critical shortages around the world that authorities say have caused health care workers to fall sick and forced doctors in Europe to make life-or-death decisions about which patients get a breathing machine.
Rice University releases plans for emergency ventilator
11:54 AM CT on 4/3/2020
Rice University has released plans for ApolloBVM, an open-source emergency ventilator that could help COVID-19 patients.
The ventilator costs less than $300 to produce and can squeeze a bag valve mask for hours. In tests this week, the device provided artificial lungs with air for 24 hours until it was turned off.
“I want to emphasize that this is for use only when there is no ventilator available,” said Dr. Rohith Malya, adviser to the Rice engineering team. “We don’t intend for this to be the primary device. We are still working towards the exact clinical use scenario as the situation demands it, nationally and globally.”
The ventilator will soon be tested on human patients, and Rice is working with manufacturers to produce a hospital-grade device.
Zocdoc adds telemedicine in response to COVID-19
10:59 AM CT on 4/3/2020
Zocdoc, a service that lets patients book appointments with participating providers online, has rolled out an option for physicians to offer scheduled video visits.
It's the first time Zocdoc has offered its network of physicians the ability to hold video visits on its platform. Patients can search and schedule video visits with physicians on Zocdoc the same way they would for traditional in-person visits. Zocdoc also integrated third-party telemedicine services, such as partnerships between telemedicine company Amwell and health systems like NewYork-Presbyterian and Houston Methodist, into its platform.
In the first week since rolling out video visits, telemedicine accounted for more than 20% of Zocdoc's total bookings. About 20% of the video visits were for reasons related to the new coronavirus, while 80% were for routine care.
Zocdoc will continue offering telemedicine after the COVID-19 public health emergency, Kharraz said.
CMS sets guidelines for nursing homes during COVID-19
9:53 AM CT on 4/3/2020
The Trump administration Thursday published guidance to help states and local governments slow the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
In addition to making sure that nursing homes comply with existing CMS and CDC infection control guidance, state and local governments should ensure that long-term care facilities have enough personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests and use them appropriately.
Long-term care facilities should also screen staff, residents and visitors for the virus, including temperature checks. Staff members and residents should be separated from each other to the extent possible.
“Nursing homes are unique in the healthcare system because, unlike other healthcare facilities, they are full-time homes as well as settings of care. Importantly, nursing home residents, given their advanced age and corresponding health issues, are at particular risk of complications arising from COVID-19,” the CMS said in a statement.
AHA, AVIA roll out digital capability tool
8:08 AM CT on 4/3/2020
The American Hospital Association and AVIA have created a free online tool to help hospitals assess where they may need to invest in digital capabilities.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, more care is going digital. Providers are looking to screen, test and triage patients via telehealth as well as provide primary and specialty care. The tool, called COVID-19 Digital Response Pulse, is meant to help health systems see where they have gaps in their capabilities and give them steps to alleviate those pain points.
“In this moment of crisis, there is so much noise when health systems need focus and clarity. The COVID-19 Pulse allows our 5,000 members to identify where they can take rapid action on the front lines to best serve their communities,” said Andy Shin, COO AHA Center for Health Innovation, in a statement.
Health system general counsels plead for protections for immigrant healthcare workers
9:22 PM CT on 4/2/2020
The Center for Migration Studies found that 43,500 healthcare workers and social-assistance workers are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. About 10,000 of them work in hospitals. The Trump administration terminated the DACA program.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, a group of general counsels for health care systems Mt. Sinai, Stanford, and Yale New Haven Health System plead for the Supreme Court, which is currently considering the lawfulness of that determination, to consider the impact on the nation's healthcare workforce during the pandemic.