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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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08/28/2020

Congress

  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about restarting COVID-19 relief bill negotiations. The call did not break the current impasse between the two sides.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • CMS issued another extension for providers to apply for the second distribution from the Provider Relief Fund’s general distribution. Providers now have until September 13th to apply.
  • CMS is clarifying which CPT codes are associated with the cost-sharing waivers Congress passed as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA0.
  • CMS issued new COVID-19 data reporting requirements to hospitals and labs. Hospitals will be required to report confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases, ICU bed occupancy, and information on the availability of certain supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • CMS issued this requirement as a condition of participation in the Medicare program, meaning hospitals that do not comply can lose their ability to participate in the Medicare program.
  • The FDA issued a letter to health care providers (HCP) and health care facilities alerting them of the potential that passive protective barriers (those without negative pressure) pose an increased health risk to patients and HCPs when treating patients who are known or suspected to have COVID-19.
  • Director of the NIH Dr. Francis Collins released a blogpost on how masks save lives.
  • CMS released a Medicaid Informational Bulletin (CIB) that provides guidance to states on flexibilities that are available to increase reimbursement for nursing facilities that implement specific infection control practices, such as designating a quarantine or isolation wing for  COVID-19 patients.
  • The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend its moratoriums on single-family foreclosures and real estate owned (REO) evictions until at least December 31, 2020.
  • CMS moved from recommending testing for nursing home residents and staff to requiring it. 
  • CMS is implementing a new national nursing home training program for frontline nursing home staff and nursing home management. The training is designed to equip both frontline caregivers and their management with the knowledge they need to stop the spread of COVID-19 in their nursing homes.
  • HHS announced the release of 1.5 million N95 respirators from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) for distribution to approximately 3,336 nursing home facilities across the United States. Beginning Aug. 28, 2020, the Defense Logistics Agency will direct shipments of N95 respirators to select nursing homes that recently reported having enough supplies for only zero to three days of operations.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Recovery, Testing and Vaccines

  • The CDC released its proposed plan for how to prioritize vaccine distributions once vaccines are approved.
  • CDC updated a summary of considerations and current CDC recommendations regarding SARS-CoV-2 testing and a brief overview of SARS-CoV-2 testing. The guidance also emphasizes how negative tests should be interpreted and acted on.
    • The new guidelines say that asymptomatic people who think they were exposed to the virus probably do not need a test. This change has been criticized by some outside public health experts.
    • CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield clarified that the guidance does not prevent those people from getting tests.
  • The Federal Reserve expects to maintain interest rates at zero for up to five years and to allow more inflation than usual to help expedite the economic recovery. 
  • AstraZeneca began testing a new COVID-19 antibody treatment.
  • A new study on the vaccine being developed by Moderna shows that it produced promising antibody responses in people over the age of 55.
  • President Trump announced the government will purchase 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbot Laboratories that recently received an emergency use authorization.