Read the latest COVID-19 related news including vaccine updates, provider relief funding, reporting and other important topics.
$20 billion in additional provider relief funding
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday announced an additional funding distribution from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund (PRF). HHS has allocated $20 billion in general distribution payments for hospitals and other providers. With this third phase of funding, hospitals that have already received PRF payments can apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the pandemic. HHS will accept applications October 5 - November 6. AzHHA encourages members to apply for this funding as soon as possible. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers also will be invited to apply. Read AHA’s special bulletin for additional information on eligibility and payment methodology.
Advocacy Alert on PRF reporting guidance
AzHHA this week sent an Advocacy Alert asking members to contact their U.S. Senators and Congressional representatives to urge HHS to reinstate the June 19 reporting guidance for the Provider Relief Fund. Guidance released in a Sept. 19th notice will require many hospitals, especially those in rural areas and serving vulnerable communities, to return funds based on a new formula and set of metrics that are simply unfair and unrealistic.
Federal officials this week notified states that remdesivir (now Veklury) will no longer be allocated and distributed by the government. Effectively October 1, hospitals must order supplies via the open market through AmerisourceBergen. We understand that price won’t change, and hospitals will continue to pay no more than Gilead’s wholesale acquisition price. For more information about Veklury for the commercial marketplace, consult this previously released HHS fact sheet and Gilead’s FAQs on pricing. Click here for an update from AmerisourceBergen on distribution.
As a reminder, the federal government has given all states a deadline of October 16 to supply the CDC with a distribution plan for a potential COVID-19 vaccine. AzHHA has been attending weekly meetings with state officials as part of the Vaccine Planning Task Force. Moving forward, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will convene the Vaccine & Antiviral Prioritization Advisory Committee (VAPAC), which is a formal component of Arizona’s Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. AzHHA is also a member of this committee and will solicit feedback from members on next week’s Chief Nursing Officer’s call.
NASEM unveils framework for equitable vaccine distribution
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine today released A Framework for Equitable Allocation of Vaccine for the Novel Coronavirus to assist and guide the federal government and decision-making bodies, including the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, as well as state, tribal, local and territorial authorities in their COVID-19 vaccine allocation planning. The report establishes four phases of distribution, with equity a crosscutting consideration.
AHA, which submitted comments on NASEM’s draft of the report, today in a joint statement with the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) praised the final framework as “sensible, well-considered, and most importantly, an equitable way to distribute a vaccine to all Americans.”
The organizations added that steps must be taken to overcome public mistrust.
“The AHA and AAMC strongly urge federal, state, and local government agencies, along with doctors, nurses, and hospitals and health systems, to deploy resources now to engage communities, build trust, create partnerships, and develop the bidirectional communication channels necessary to orient the vaccination effort toward success,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack and AAMC President and CEO David Skorton, M.D.
Lab Directors Call & Testing Update
AzHHA held its monthly meeting between hospital lab directors and Arizona State Lab staff this week. The call focused on results from the weekly survey that ADHS has been using to track COVID-19 testing capacity and capability. The weekly survey asks questions regarding instrumentation, which FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is being followed, what supply shortages are of concern, as well as turn-around times and reporting. The survey has created a direct line of communication between the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory (ASPHL) and the facilities that have responded.
From the survey, ASPHL has found that:
- a majority of facilities responding to the survey run a point-of-care EUA for onsite COVID-19 testing.
- the most abundant instrument used for COVID-19 testing is Abbott ID NOW.
- reported turn-around times have decreased since mid-August.
- most laboratories perform priority in-house testing and send out to the major commercial laboratories.
- earlier in the pandemic, when ASPHL started surveying regularly, laboratories were lacking collection kits, now more laboratories lack testing reagents.
It is important to note that ADHS uses the survey responses to assist private labs in securing needed equipment and to provide information and updates to facilities, such as ADHS completing implementation of COVID-19 electronic laboratory reporting (CELR) with CDC, so facilities fully in production or fully implemented in any of the approved electronic reporting options to ADHS fulfills CARES Act reporting requirements to HHS. If you have any questions about the Testing Capacity and Capability survey, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- College Spread. A recent CDC report examined “clusters” of cases at North Carolina colleges immediately after opening. In less than a month in August, there were nearly 700 cases on NC college campus. 18 clusters of five or more epidemiologically linked cases within 14 days of one another were reported; 30% of cases were linked to a cluster.
- College Spread/Illinois. A recent Nature article noted that a key component of spread on a college campus was related to students who tested positive, continued to gather and ultimately spread the virus.
- Young Adults. A recent CDC report examined an increase in COVID-19 among 18- to 22-year-olds. The study noted that because 45% of people in this age group attend colleges and universities, it is likely that some of the increase is linked to the resumption of in-person attendance at some colleges and universities.
Let's get social
AzHHA is committed to communicating the message on the importance of flu vaccination, COVID-19 public health prevention measures and routine medical care among many current topics. Join us in spreading the message! Find many social media graphics for use on our website here. Contact Communications@azhha.org for more information.