COVID-19 Updates

As information continues to be made available regarding the Coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, the PHCA team is here to ensure you receive all appropriate guidance and necessary supplies to prevent the spread of this virus in your communities.

The CDC expects an increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the coming days and weeks and is relying on health care providers to take action and help prevent the spread of the virus. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it is important for our communities to be prepared.

For additional resources, please visit the links below:

In addition, Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureaus of Epidemiology and Emergency Preparedness & Response, and Emergency Medical Services holds a statewide COVID-19 call for long-term care facilities, home care, post-acute, dialysis, and similar facilities every Tuesday and Friday at 1 p.m.

These calls will occur weekly until the risk of COVID-19 has subsided and will help infection prevention and control staff, hospital communicators, and frontline staff coordinate your hospital/facility’s coronavirus preparedness and response. The details for this call are below:

www.zoom.us/j/96125202514
call-in information: 929-205-6099
meeting ID: 961 2520 2514

Thank you for keeping our residents and communities safe!

If you have any questions, please reach out to PHCA staff:

  • For regulatory questions, contact Gail Weidman, director of policy and regulatory affairs, at gweidman@phca.org.
  • For quality questions, contact Chris Fisher, director of quality initiatives, at cfisher@phca.org.
  • For questions related to assisted living/personal care, contact Kevin Cysyk, director of AL/PC, at kcysyk@phca.org.
  • For communications support or questions about responding to media inquiries, contact Shayna Varner, director of communications, at svarner@phca.org.

 

Please note: Beginning January 1, 2021, the PHCA Daily Update will no longer be posted to the COVID-19 Resources page. If you have any questions or concerns, would like to add additional members of your team to our distribution list, please let us know.

 

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020 – 5:45 p.m.

During a press conference earlier today, Governor Tom Wolf announced the time-limited mitigation orders put in place on December 12 will be lifted, as planned, on Monday, January 4 at 8 a.m.

In addition, the Department of Health also launched a new COVID-19 vaccine dashboard to track the vaccine distribution process, including the number of vaccinations administered in each county, as well as demographic information regarding the population being vaccinated.

On a lighter note: the PHCA daily update will be taking a brief hiatus for the new year holiday, but don’t worry! We’ll be back with your regularly scheduled updates this Monday, January 4th! In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can help in any way, and we hope you have a very happy, healthy new year.

We have several important updates and a few reminders to share with you today:

DOH Secretary Signs Order Directing Vaccine Access for Health Care Personnel
Earlier today, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order directing a percentage of all vaccine distributions to hospitals, health systems, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and pharmacies be designated for health care personnel within Phase 1A, including health care personnel working in Emergency Medical Services, that are not affiliated with a hospital or health system.

This order goes into effect January 6th.

DOH Releases New FAQ re: Vaccine Distribution, Federal Pharmacy Partnership
Late yesterday, the Department of Health released a new FAQ addressing questions posed by long-term care providers, families with loved ones in long-term care and other residential facilities, and other stakeholders regarding the vaccination of these groups within Phase 1A of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

DOH Releases New FAQ re: COVID-19 Treatment and Biologics
Over the holiday, the Department of Health released a new FAQ addressing previously shared information regarding monoclonal antibody treatment in skilled nursing facilities. These antibody treatments have either been authorized under an EUA or licensed by the FDA.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

DHS Releases New ListServe Regarding Act 24 Payment Reporting
Earlier today, the Department of Human Services released a new ListServe regarding Act 24 reporting.

Although many providers continue to experience challenges accessing the Act 24 reporting tool, DHS continues to hold December 31 (tomorrow) as the reporting deadline. All providers should attempt to use their assigned access to log on and complete the report prior to the deadline.

If a provider is unable to access the tool and has submitted a request for user access by tomorrow, you will have until January 8 to complete the required reporting. It may take three to five days to receive a response from the Department. If you need to request user access, please complete the DHS COVID Tracking – User Change Request form by tomorrow.

Please reach out to Gail Weidman on our team if you have questions.

Reminder: PHCA Launches New COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Support Form
As a reminder: please use PHCA’s new COVID-19 vaccine support form to document your experience with the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, and your experience with CVS/Omnicare and Walgreens.

Your responses will help PHCA identify opportunities or challenges that may exist within this vaccination program, and this survey will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 8,984 additional positive cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 439 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 631,333.

There are 6,022 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,174 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,600 since the end of September.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of December 18 – December 24 stood at 15.1%. Daily statewide data is available here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020 -5:30 p.m.

We have a couple of important updates and a few reminders to share with you today:

PHCA Launches New COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Support Form
For many PHCA members, there has been cause for celebration this week: CVS/Omnicare and Walgreens have officially begun the first of three on-site clinics to vaccinate long-term care residents and staff.

For other PHCA members, we know there are still unanswered questions from those same pharmacy partners, as well as our state Departments of Health and Human Services.

While details remain limited, please know that PHCA is here to help.

Please use PHCA’s new COVID-19 vaccine support form to document your experience with the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, and your experience with CVS/Omnicare and Walgreens.

Your responses will help PHCA identify opportunities or challenges that may exist within this vaccination program, and this survey will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

As always, thank you!

AHCA/NCAL to Host COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Webinar with CDC, CMS
Tomorrow at 4 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be hosting a ‘fireside chat’ on COVID-19 vaccine safety.

This discussion kicks-off a special series, as a part of the CMS National Nursing Home Stakeholder call series, aimed at addressing staff questions and concerns about the new COVID-19 vaccines.

To register in advance for this webinar, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.​

If you would like to submit questions for the panel to discuss, send your questions to COVID-19@cms.hhs.gov. Note: there will not be a Q&A session during the call.

Exciting News! PHCA to Re-Launch Leadership Webinar Series in January 2021
Register today to join PHCA, as well as Kimberly A. Delbo and Angela Hummel of Radiant & Resilient Leadership, for a new six-part interactive webinar series designed to equip new and emerging leaders in long-term care with the leadership skills necessary to tackle all sorts of new challenges.

PHCA held this series earlier in 2020, and we’re re-launching it for a new group of leaders beginning next month! All participants are eligible to earn up to six CEUs. The cost of this webinar series is $99.

To learn more and register, click here.

Reminder: Update on COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Treatments
This week, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – has advised us that the Special Projects for Equitable and Efficient Distribution portal – or SPEED – should go live this week to help allocate monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to priority populations, including nursing homes and AL/PC. The public portal distribution locations map is going through the final stages of approval before launching, and we’ll provide updates as we learn more.

The mAb is being made available to nursing homes and assisted living/personal care through two distinct ways:

Please let us know how we can support you.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 8,545 additional positive cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 4,766 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 622,349.

There are 5,995 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,174 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Daily statewide data is available here.

Monday, December 28, 2020 – 6:45 p.m.

We hope you had a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend with your family and friends.

Please know that we are grateful for your continued commitment to the residents you serve, and we’re proud to advocate on your behalf here in Harrisburg – especially during the holiday season.

For many PHCA members, today was cause for celebration: CVS/Omnicare and Walgreens were on-site for the first of three clinics to vaccinate residents and staff in long-term care.

For other PHCA members, we know there are still unanswered calls and emails from those pharmacy partners, as you, your staff and residents eagerly await the vaccine. While details remain limited, please know that we’re here to help!

If you have questions or concerns about next steps, please let us know…after all, we’re here to support you. PHCA has the best regulatory team in Pennsylvania, and we can guide you through the vaccination process and obtain the answers you need.

In the meantime, we have a few important updates and reminders to share with you:

Updates on COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Treatments
This week, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – has advised us that the Special Projects for Equitable and Efficient Distribution portal – or SPEED – should go live this week to help allocate monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to priority populations, including nursing homes and AL/PC. The public portal distribution locations map is going through the final stages of approval before launching, and we’ll provide updates as we learn more.

The mAb is being made available to nursing homes and assisted living/personal care through two distinct ways:

Please let us know how we can support you.

DOH Releases New Data Reporting Order
Last Thursday (Christmas Eve), the Department of Health posted a new data reporting order to the Message Board, eliminating the CORVENA reporting requirement and reinforcing the need to make daily reports of data regarding supplies and equipment.

We followed up with DOH to obtain additional clarification around this order, and we have been advised that this order does eliminate the CORVENA reporting requirement, but providers must still report to Survey123 each day by 8 a.m.

The Department will conduct additional webinars for reporting to the Survey123 reporting tool, and we’ll keep you posted as these webinars are scheduled. For individual and technical support inquiries, please email RA-DHSNFQuestion@pa.gov.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions.

AHCA/NCAL Releases Three-Part Webinar: Grief, Trauma & the Impact of COVID-19 on Residents and Staff
A few weeks ago, AHCA/NCAL announced the release of a three-part webinar series that addresses the extraordinary strains the COVID-19 pandemic has had on nursing facility and assisted living/personal care residents and staff. The online educational series, titled Grief, Trauma, & the Impact of COVID-19 on Residents and Staffoffers 3.5 NAB CEs or 3.0 nurse contact hours for individuals purchasing the training.

Organizations or facilities may also register five or more individuals by clicking here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 3,779 additional positive cases of COVID-19, in addition to 4,884 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 8,663, bringing the statewide total to 613,804.

There are 5,905 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,145 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Daily statewide data is available here.

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

As we reflect on 2020 this holiday season, our thoughts turn gratefully to each of you. Your resilience and courage, in the face of the unknown and unexpected, has truly inspired us.

From all of us at PHCA, we wish you a holiday season full of peace and happiness, and a new year filled with hope!

The daily update will be taking a brief hiatus for the Christmas holiday, but don’t worry! We’ll be back with your regularly scheduled updates on Monday, December 28. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can help in any way.

But for now, a few updates and reminders to share with you:

Update on HHS Phase 3 Provider Relief Fund TIN Validations
Earlier today, we learned the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will plan to reach out to members that applied for Phase 2 or Phase 3 stimulus relief from the Provider Relief Fund and were initially informed that their application could not proceed due to an ineligible taxpayer identification number. HHS has indicated that this determination was done so in error and will provide an opportunity to apply for Phase 3 funding under a new January 6 application deadline.

Please note that HHS indicated nearly 5,000 applications were deemed ineligible incorrectly, but did not share the list of providers that should expect this email.

If you have any questions, please reach out to AHCA/NCAL via email at COVID19@ahca.org.

Reminder: AMDA and AHCA/NCAL Vaccine Education Resources Available
As we get closer to the kickoff of vaccination clinics in long-term care, one of the most frequently asked questions we continue to receive from our members related to the COVID-19 vaccine has been: “What do I tell my staff, residents and their families if they have questions?”

AMDA – the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine – and AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – have released terrific vaccine-related resources to help you educate your residents, staff and their loved ones. These toolkits include presentations, sample letters, FAQ documents, strategies for ‘improving confidence’ in the vaccines, and more.

To download the free AMDA toolkit, click here. You must register for access, which takes just a few minutes. To download the AHCA/NCAL resources, click here – no registration required.

And as always, please let us know if we can help to support you in any way.

DHS Releases Update on RRHCP Program
This afternoon, the Department of Human Services shared a new FAQ and an updated call center directory ahead of the December 30 expiration of the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP).

Providers should continue to contact their regional call center with any needs as DHS has indicated it is continuing to work with partners to ensure continued access to PPE, infection control consultation, testing resources, staffing support and rapid response capacity.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman, Chris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 9,605 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,640 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 581,156.

There are 6,151 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,236 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. Daily statewide data is available here.

 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We’ve got several important updates to share with you today, including an update on a new federal stimulus package that passed Congress late last night:

U.S. Congress Passes New $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package
Last night, members of Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package to provide much-needed COVID-19 relief to thousands of U.S. citizens, as well as small businesses and healthcare providers. As it relates to long-term care, the stimulus package did include some real positives. AHCA/NCAL put together a terrific, longer summary, which you can find here.

Here is the high-level overview:

  • $3 billion was included for the Provider Relief Fund, which could potentially benefit long-term care providers.
  • Sequester relief is extended for three more months. This keeps Medicare rates 2% higher until the end of March 2021.
  • Provides a much broader definition of revenue and expenses for purposes of attesting for Provider Relief Funds.
  • Allows providers to deduct the expenses that PPP loans paid for, even if the SBA forgives the PPP loan. This is a major tax advantage.

The obvious missing pieces? Liability protections and bailouts for state/local governments. A deal couldn’t be brokered with these components in the package, so we’ll have to look to 2021 for movement on both of these critical initiatives. Pennsylvania, along with just a handful of other states, really could use both of those legislative handouts.

Please let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

New Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Resources Now Available 
Earlier today, AHCA/NCAL hosted a webinar focused on the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. To download the presentation from today’s webinar, click here.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to reach out to your pharmacy partner directly. To contact CVS/Omnicare, email CovidVaccineClinicsLTCF@cvshealth.com. To contact Walgreens, email ImmunizeLTC@walgreens.com.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of this week’s data release, all but two counties are in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Reminder: NAB Announces Reporting Changes to Registry for AL/PC Admins
As we shared with you on Friday, the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) will require all personal care home and assisted living community administrators/executive directors to pay an annual fee of $20 to access the continuing education registry beginning January 1, 2021.

The registry will remain free of charge for nursing home administrators.

In lieu of paying the annual fee, we recommend AL/PC administrators log in to their NAB registry, print and keep hard copy files of all your credit certificates by no later than January 1, 2021. If you do not pay the $20 annual fee, your registry will be deleted three months after non-payment.

PHCA will issue credit certificates to you for any credits earned during our virtual convention this November and beyond. If you have any questions, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education and events, at wjohnson@phca.org.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 7,962 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 75 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 571,551.

There are 6,090 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,217 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,500 since the end of September.

Monday, December 21, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We continue to receive news and updates on the COVID-19 vaccine. To ensure you’re caught up: late Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Moderna’s request for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Additionally, throughout the last week, states across the country, in partnership with CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies, began to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home staff and residents. Today, this process began in 12 more states. However, in Pennsylvania, not a single long-term care provider will receive its first vaccine until next Monday, December 28.

This afternoon, we issued a strong statement calling on public health officials in Harrisburg to prioritize the state’s distribution of vaccines to our most vulnerable residents and their providers of care. And we’ll continue to advocate for the prioritization of your residents and staff moving forward, so that we can begin to put this pandemic behind us.

We’ve got several important updates to share with you as we kick off the holiday week here at PHCA:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release, all but two counties are in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Releases New PAHAN for Responding to Signs, Symptoms Following COVID-19 Vaccination in Long-Term Care Residents
Over the weekend, the Department of Health released new guidance – PAHAN-542 – to appropriately evaluate and manage post-vaccination signs and symptoms of residents following the COVID-19 vaccine.

In the guidance, a figure is provided to outline the steps to take in response to residents who develop symptoms in the 3 days following vaccination for COVID-19.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

AHCA/NCAL to Host New Office Hours on Moderna Vaccine
Following the FDA’s emergency use authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, AHCA/NCAL will be hosting an additional ‘office hours’ session tomorrow – Tuesday, December 22 – at 2 p.m. to share updates on the EUA and answer your questions.

To register, click here. Recordings from last week’s office hours, which focus on preparing for and promoting high vaccination rates in your facilities, are available here.

AHCA/NCAL Launches #GetVaccinated Education Materials and Resources
AHCA/NCAL has launched a new landing page with education materials and resources to help communicate with residents and their loved ones about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. This digital toolkit includes a checklist of ideas, template letters to use with stakeholders, sample social media posts, and media prep material.

Be sure to check back often for additional educational resources. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more.

NAB Announces Reporting Changes to Registry for AL/PC Administrators
As we shared with you on Friday, the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards (NAB) will require all personal care home and assisted living community administrators to pay an annual fee of $20 to access the continuing education registry beginning January 1, 2021.

The registry will remain free of charge for nursing home administrators.

In lieu of paying the annual fee, we recommend AL/PC administrators log in to your NAB registry, print and keep hard copy files of all your credit certificates by no later than January 1, 2021. If you do not pay the $20 annual fee, your registry will be deleted three months after non-payment.

PHCA will issue credit certificates to you for any credits earned during our virtual convention this November and beyond. If you have any questions, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education and events, at wjohnson@phca.org.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 7,887 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 7,213 new cases reported Sunday, December 20, for a two-day total of 15,100 additional positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the statewide total to 563,589.

There are 6,074 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, double the peak in the spring. Of that number, 1,230 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,400 since the end of September.

Statewide percent positivity for the week of December 11 – December 17 stood at 15.8%.

Friday, December 18, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We’ve got several important reminders to share with you tonight as we wrap up another week:

DHS Issues Reminder re: Emergency Staffing Protocols
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, so does the risk of staff in our communities being exposed to and testing positive for the virus. We know many of you are already working to address potential staffing shortages; however, the Department of Human Services has issued a reminder to review your community’s emergency staffing plan to ensure it includes alternatives if a staffing shortage occurs.

In addition to return to work guidance, DHS encourages providers to review PAHAN-516 which includes strategies to mitigate healthcare personnel staffing shortages that should also be applied to direct care staff working in personal care homes and assisted living communities.

If you have any questions, you can email DHS directly at ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov or reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our team.

Walgreens Launches New COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Portal, CVS/Omnicare Provides Updated Resources
Earlier today, Walgreens announced the launch of its new COVID-19 vaccine resource portal. While the FAQs are a bit confusing, the new portal includes additional consent guidance with instructions, which indicates that Walgreens will accept verbal or emailed consent for the vaccine.

CVS/Omnicare has also updated its resource page, with updated instructions on consent, a new form to obtain consent, a new form to obtain consent from a responsible party, and available FAQs.

If we can support you in any way on all issues vaccine-related, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Reminder: PHCA Launches New Searchable COVID-19 Resource Catalog
Over the past several months, the CDC, CMS, DOH and DHS have released a significant number of directives, orders and guidance for long-term care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to make this as simple and as searchable as possible, PHCA has cataloged and organized these resources into a database for our members. You can search these resources by title, category or by month.

We continue to make adjustments to this catalog to make it as user-friendly as possible. As you use this resource, please be sure to share any feedback you have with Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

PHCA to Re-Launch Leadership Webinar Series in January 2021
Join PHCA, as well as Kimberly A. Delbo and Angela Hummel of Radiant & Resilient Leadership, for a new six-part interactive webinar series designed to equip new and emerging leaders in long-term care with the leadership skills necessary to tackle all sorts of new challenges.

PHCA held this series earlier in 2020, and we’re re-launching it for a new group of leaders beginning next month!
538,655
All participants are eligible to earn up to six CEUs. The cost of this webinar series is $99.

To learn more and register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed 9,320 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 646 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 538,655.

There are 6,209 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, more than double peak hospitalization rates that occurred this spring. Of that number, 1,246 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,300 since the end of September.

Thursday, December 17, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

After the first statewide snowfall of the year, we hope you’re doing well! We’ve got several important reminders to share with you tonight:

DHS Issues Reminder re: COVID-19 Testing Strategies, Routine Testing Protocols
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the Department of Human Services has issued a reminder of its previous guidance, which outlined testing strategies and routine testing protocols. DHS is urging providers that have not established a routine testing protocol for asymptomatic staff and residents to do so as soon as possible.

Facilities that may need clinical support can complete the Universal Testing Needs Assessment form or contact their Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP), which will be available until December 31.

In addition to this, all previous guidance on testing of symptomatic and exposed individuals, as indicated in PA-HAN 530, should be followed regardless of community transmission level.

If you have any questions, you can email DHS directly at ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov or Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our team.

Reminder: Verbal Consent to be Accepted for Participation in COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
During the office hour informational sessions hosted by AHCA/NCAL this week, members of the AHCA/NCAL team shared that both CVS/Omnicare AND Walgreens will accept verbal consent for participation in the vaccine clinic. You can download their presentation deck here.

If you selected CVS/Omnicare as your pharmacy provider for the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to visit their resource page, as additions are being made almost daily. Walgreens has not yet updated their forms to allow for verbal consent, but we have been advised that a revised form reflecting this update will be made available shortly.

If we can support you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Reminder: PHCA Launches New Searchable COVID-19 Resource Catalog
Over the past several months, the CDC, CMS, DOH and DHS have released a significant number of directives, orders and guidance for long-term care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to make this as simple and as searchable as possible, PHCA has cataloged and organized these resources into a database for our members. You can search these resources by title, category or by month.

We continue to make adjustments to this catalog to make it as user-friendly as possible. As you use this resource, please be sure to share any feedback you have with Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Exciting News! PHCA to Re-Launch Leadership Webinar Series in January 2021
Join PHCA, as well as Kimberly A. Delbo and Angela Hummel of Radiant & Resilient Leadership, for a new six-part interactive webinar series designed to equip new and emerging leaders in long-term care with the leadership skills necessary to tackle all sorts of new challenges.

PHCA held this series earlier in 2020, and we’re re-launching it for a new group of leaders beginning next month!

All participants are eligible to earn up to six CEUs. The cost of this webinar series is $99.

To learn more and register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed 9,966 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 83 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 529,335.

There are 6,346 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, more than double peak hospitalization rates that occurred this spring. Of that number, 1,238 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,200 since the end of September.

 

 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

After the first statewide snowfall of the year, we hope you’re doing well! We’ve got several important reminders to share with you tonight:

DHS Issues Reminder re: COVID-19 Testing Strategies, Routine Testing Protocols
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the Department of Human Services has issued a reminder of its previous guidance, which outlined testing strategies and routine testing protocols. DHS is urging providers that have not established a routine testing protocol for asymptomatic staff and residents to do so as soon as possible.

Facilities that may need clinical support can complete the Universal Testing Needs Assessment form or contact their Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP), which will be available until December 31.

In addition to this, all previous guidance on testing of symptomatic and exposed individuals, as indicated in PA-HAN 530, should be followed regardless of community transmission level.

If you have any questions, you can email DHS directly at ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov or Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our team.

Reminder: Verbal Consent to be Accepted for Participation in COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
During the office hour informational sessions hosted by AHCA/NCAL this week, members of the AHCA/NCAL team shared that both CVS/Omnicare AND Walgreens will accept verbal consent for participation in the vaccine clinic. You can download their presentation deck here.

If you selected CVS/Omnicare as your pharmacy provider for the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to visit their resource page, as additions are being made almost daily. Walgreens has not yet updated their forms to allow for verbal consent, but we have been advised that a revised form reflecting this update will be made available shortly.

If we can support you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Reminder: PHCA Launches New Searchable COVID-19 Resource Catalog
Over the past several months, the CDC, CMS, DOH and DHS have released a significant number of directives, orders and guidance for long-term care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to make this as simple and as searchable as possible, PHCA has cataloged and organized these resources into a database for our members. You can search these resources by title, category or by month.

We continue to make adjustments to this catalog to make it as user-friendly as possible. As you use this resource, please be sure to share any feedback you have with Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Exciting News! PHCA to Re-Launch Leadership Webinar Series in January 2021
Join PHCA, as well as Kimberly A. Delbo and Angela Hummel of Radiant & Resilient Leadership, for a new six-part interactive webinar series designed to equip new and emerging leaders in long-term care with the leadership skills necessary to tackle all sorts of new challenges.

PHCA held this series earlier in 2020, and we’re re-launching it for a new group of leaders beginning next month!

All participants are eligible to earn up to six CEUs. The cost of this webinar series is $99.

To learn more and register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed 9,966 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 83 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 529,335.

There are 6,346 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, more than double peak hospitalization rates that occurred this spring. Of that number, 1,238 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,200 since the end of September.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 – 6 p.m.

We’ve got several important updates and COVID-19 vaccine-related reminders to share with you:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release, all but four of Pennsylvania’s counties are in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Additionally: you do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

PHCA to Host New Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine and Ways to Prepare for Distribution
PHCA is partnering with our friends at ECRI to host a webinar this Thursday, December 17 at 2 p.m. to discuss current developments surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, recommended practices to help make vaccine deployment as safe as possible, and risk management practices related to education and refusal documentation:

COVID-19 Vaccines: The Medicine, Science and Safety
Thursday, December 17 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
One CEU credit is available for SNF, AL, PC and LTC nurses.

To register, click here.

AHCA/NCAL to Host Office Hours Tomorrow re: COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
​COVID-19 vaccine clinics will begin in just two weeks, and the AHCA/NCAL team will be available to answer your questions regarding readiness with another ‘office hours’ session tomorrow at 4 p.m. To register, click here.

During today’s office hours session, members of the AHCA/NCAL team shared that both CVS/Omnicare AND Walgreens will accept verbal consent for participation in the vaccine clinic. You can download the presentation deck here.

If you selected CVS/Omnicare as your pharmacy provider for the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to visit their resource page as additions are made almost daily. Walgreens has not yet updated their forms to allow for verbal consent, but we have been advised a revised form that reflects this update will be made available.

As a reminder, a recording of last week’s AHCA/NCAL webinar, Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics, is available. The webinar covered what providers need to do now to prepare for vaccine clinics and tips to promote high vaccination rates in your facilities.

All documents referenced in the webinar are accessible under the “Resources” tab. Additional resources can be found on the AHCA/NCAL website. Please email COVID19@ahca.org with any questions.

As always, we will keep you aware of updates as we learn more. We encourage you to continue working with your pharmacy partner content as planning for vaccination clinics proceed.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed 9,556 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,594 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 509,320.

There are 6,026 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, double that of peak hospitalization rates this spring. Of that number, 1,249 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 5,000 since the end of September.

Monday, December 14, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

As we’re certain you’ve seen today, the distribution of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has begun to hospitals across the country, with a number of doses being directed to Pennsylvania hospitals and healthcare workers. In fact, UPMC in Pittsburgh administered the first vaccine live on television this morning.

Based on the updated guidance, CVS Health and Walgreens will begin distributing vaccines to nursing homes as part of the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program on Monday, December 28.

It does appear as though nursing home residents and staff will receive the vaccine first, followed by AL/PC and other congregate care settings.

As always, we’ll keep you informed as we learn more.

In the meantime, we’ve got several important updates and reminders to share with you:

PHCA to Host New Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine and Ways to Prepare for Distribution
PHCA will be hosting a webinar this Thursday, December 17 at 2 p.m. to discuss current developments surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, recommended practices to help make vaccine deployment as safe as possible, and risk management practices related to education and refusal documentation:

COVID-19 Vaccines: The Medicine, Science and Safety
Thursday, December 17 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
One CEU credit is available for SNF, AL, PC and LTC nurses.

To register, click here. This webinar will be presented by our friends at ECRI, and we hope you can join us.

AHCA/NCAL to Host Office Hours re: COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
​COVID-19 vaccine clinics will begin in just two weeks, and the AHCA/NCAL team will be available to answer your questions regarding readiness with two ‘office hour’ sessions.

These office hours are scheduled for tomorrow, December 15 at 11 a.m. and Wednesday, December 16 at 4 p.m. To register for one of these office hours, click here.

As a reminder, a recording of last week’s AHCA/NCAL webinar, Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics, is available. The webinar covered what providers need to do now to prepare for vaccine clinics and tips to promote high vaccination rates in your facilities.

All documents referenced in the webinar are accessible under the “Resources” tab. Additional resources can be found on the AHCA/NCAL website. Please email COVID19@ahca.org with any questions.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

RRHCP to Offer COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar for Long-Term Care Providers
Are you sensing a theme here? Tomorrow at 2 p.m., the RRHCP Statewide Learning Network will be hosting a webinar on the Long-Term Care Vaccine Distribution Plan. To register, click here.

If you are unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and posted to the “Learning Sessions” section of the Tomorrow’s HealthCare™ Community at www.tomorrowshealthcare.org.

Reminder: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care COVID-19 Vaccine Program
As a reminder: during the registration process for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, you were asked to select between two options for your designated vaccine provider: CVS/Omnicare or Walgreens.

If you did not register for the program through the online portal OR for those members that registered with an LTC pharmacy but did not provide a back-up option with CVS or Walgreens: you must contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health as soon as possible to get your facility added to the CVS or Walgreens list by emailing ra-dhcovidvax@pa.gov.

PLEASE NOTE: Outreach by CVS Health and Walgreens has already started.

If you selected CVS as your pharmacy provider, you should hear from them by Monday, December 14. If you have not been contacted by a CVS Health by Monday, please check your spam folder and facility contact information by clicking here.

If the email is not in your spam folder and the facility contact information is correct, email CVS Health at CovidVaccineClinicsLTCF@CVSHealth.com – please use CONTACT as the subject line and include your facility name, address and point-of-contact information.

If you selected Walgreens as your pharmacy provider, you should have heard from Walgreens by Wednesday, December 9. If you have not heard from a Walgreens representative, email ImmunizeLTC@walgreens.com.

Exciting News! PHCA to Re-Launch Leadership Webinar Series in January 2021
Join PHCA, as well as Kimberly A. Delbo and Angela Hummel of Radiant & Resilient Leadership, for a new six-part interactive webinar series designed to equip new and emerging leaders in long-term care with the leadership skills necessary to tackle all sorts of new challenges.

PHCA held this series earlier in 2020, and we’re re-launching it for a new group of leaders beginning next month!

All participants are eligible to earn up to six CEUs. The cost of this webinar series is $99.

To learn more and register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed 7,962 new cases, in addition to 10,684 new cases reported Sunday, December 13 for a two-day total of 18,646 additional positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the statewide total to 499,764.

There are 5,970 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,227 patients are in the intensive care unit with COVID-19. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,900 since the end of September. Statewide percent positivity for the week of December 4 – December 10 stood at 16.2%.

Friday, December 11, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Last week, we launched a petition calling on Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine to protect long-term care and prioritize our residents and healthcare heroes with the first distribution of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In just under one week, we’ve obtained 1,500 signatures of support! You can download a copy of our petition here.

Thanks to those of you who joined our call and signed our petition. It’s important to note that we received the signatures not only of frontline staff and operators, but residents and their family members as well.

We’ve shared this with the Wolf Administration, and we hope to learn more about the prioritization of our residents and workers soon.

We’ve got several important updates and reminders to share with you today, all related to the impending vaccine distribution:

PHCA to Host New Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine and Ways to Prepare for Distribution
PHCA will be hosting a webinar next Thursday, December 17 at 2 p.m. to discuss current developments surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, recommended practices to help make vaccine deployment as safe as possible, and risk management practices related to education and refusal documentation.

This webinar will be presented by our friends at ECRI, and we hope you can join us.

COVID-19 Vaccines: The Medicine, Science and Safety
Thursday, December 17 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
One CEU credit is available for SNF, AL, PC and LTC nurses.

To register, click here.

AHCA/NCAL COVID-19 Vaccine Webinar Recording, Resources Now Available
The recording of yesterday’s AHC/NCAL webinar, Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics, is now available. The webinar covered what providers need to do now to prepare for vaccine clinics and tips to promote high vaccination rates in your facilities.

All documents referenced in the webinar are accessible under the “Resources” tab. Additional resources can be found on the AHCA/NCAL website. Please email COVID19@ahca.org with any questions.

AHCA/NCAL will be hosting two “office hours” webinar sessions next week to answer your questions about how to get ready and promote high vaccination rates in your building.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Reminder: AMDA Releases New COVID-19 Vaccine Education Toolkit
One of the most frequently asked questions we continue to receive from our members related to the COVID-19 vaccine has been: “What do I tell my staff, residents and their families if they have questions?”

A new toolkit created by AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine – can help you.

To download the free toolkit, click here. You must register for access, which takes just a few minutes.

This toolkit includes a wealth of information, including a PowerPoint presentation that covers the possible impact of being first in line for the vaccine, the vaccine trials being ‘rushed’, safety, side effects, and the protection the vaccine provides.

Additionally, there are sample letters, an FAQ document, and strategies for ‘improving confidence’ in the vaccine itself – all contained in this toolkit.

Reminder: COVID-19 Vaccine Partnership Program
We’ve been fielding a number of calls throughout the past few days regarding the required forms for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a reminder: during the registration process for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, you were asked to select between two options for your designated vaccine provider: CVS/Omnicare or Walgreens.

If you did not register for the program through the online portal OR for those members that registered with an LTC pharmacy but did not provide a back-up option with CVS or Walgreens: you must contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health as soon as possible to get your facility added to the CVS or Walgreens list by emailing ra-dhcovidvax@pa.gov.

PLEASE NOTE: Outreach by CVS Health and Walgreens has already started.

If you selected CVS as your pharmacy provider, you should hear from them by Monday, December 14. If you have not been contacted by a CVS Health by Monday, please check your spam folder and facility contact information by clicking here.

If the email is not in your spam folder and the facility contact information is correct, email CVS Health at CovidVaccineClinicsLTCF@CVSHealth.com – please use CONTACT as the subject line and include your facility name, address and point-of-contact information.

If you selected Walgreens as your pharmacy provider, you should have heard from Walgreens by Wednesday, December 9. If you have not heard from a Walgreens representative, email ImmunizeLTC@walgreens.com.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed there were 12,745 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 773 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 470,034.

As of today, 5,877 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients,1,218 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,500 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Thursday, December 10, 2020 – 5:15 p.m.

From the team here at the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), we wanted to take a moment to wish those celebrating tonight a very happy Hanukkah.

We’ve got several important updates and reminders to share with you today:

Wolf Administration Announces New Statewide COVID-19 Mitigation Efforts
During a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced they would be, once again, implementing statewide mitigation efforts in response to the increased cases of COVID-19. These steps include:

  • All in-person indoor dining, including at bars, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, and private catered events is prohibited. Outdoor dining, take-out food service and take-out alcohol sales are permitted.
  • Indoor gatherings and events of more than 10 persons are prohibited. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and other places of worship are excluded from limitations but are strongly encouraged to find alternative methods for worship.
  • Outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 people are prohibited.
  • All in-person businesses serving the public may only operate at up to 50% of maximum capacity.
  • Indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities are prohibited.
  • All in-person businesses in the entertainment industry including theaters, concert venues, museums, movie theaters, etc. are prohibited.
  • Voluntary extracurricular school activities are suspended but may be held virtually. All K-12 sports – including recreational, intermural or intramural – sports are paused.
  • Professional and collegiate sports activities may continue in accordance with guidance from the CDC and the Department of Health. Spectators may not attend these activities in person.

You can download Gov. Wolf’s limited-time mitigation order, Sec. Levine’s limited-time mitigation order and frequently asked questions.

AMDA Releases New COVID-19 Vaccine Education Toolkit
One of the most frequently asked questions we continue to receive from our members related to the COVID-19 vaccine has been: “What do I tell my staff, residents and their families if they have questions?”

A new toolkit created by AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine – can help you.

To download the free toolkit, click here. You must register for access, which takes just a few minutes.

This toolkit includes a wealth of information, including a PowerPoint presentation that covers the possible impact of being first in line for the vaccine, the vaccine trials being ‘rushed’, safety, side effects, and the protection the vaccine provides.

Additionally, there are sample letters, an FAQ document, and strategies for ‘improving confidence’ in the vaccine itself – all contained in this toolkit.

We expect there will be additional resources released by AHCA/NCAL (in conjunction with the CDC), and we’ll share those with you as soon as they become available.

PHCA to Host New Webinar on COVID-19 Vaccine and Ways to Prepare for Distribution
PHCA will be hosting a webinar next Thursday, December 17 at 2 p.m. to discuss current development around the vaccine, recommended practices to help make vaccine deployment as safe as possible and risk management practices related to education and refusal documentation.

This webinar will be presented by our friends at ECRI.

COVID-19 Vaccines: The Medicine, Science and Safety
Thursday, December 17 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
One CEU credit is available for SNF, AL, PC and LTC nurses.

To register, click here.

Reminder: COVID-19 Vaccine Partnership Program
We’ve been fielding a number of calls throughout the past few days regarding the required forms for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a reminder: during the registration process for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, you were asked to select between two options for your designated vaccine provider: CVS/Omnicare or Walgreens.

If you did not register for the program through the online portal OR for those members that registered with an LTC pharmacy but did not provide a back-up option with CVS or Walgreens: you must contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health as soon as possible to get your facility added to the CVS or Walgreens list by emailing ra-dhcovidvax@pa.gov.

PLEASE NOTE: Outreach by CVS Health and Walgreens has already started.

If you selected CVS as your pharmacy provider, you should hear from CVS Health by Monday, December 14. If you have not been contacted by a CVS Health by Monday, December 14, please check your spam folder and facility contact information by clicking here. If the email is not in your spam folder and the facility contact information is correct, email CVS Health at CovidVaccineClinicsLTCF@CVSHealth.com – please use CONTACT as the subject line and include the facility name, address and point-of-contact information.

If you selected Walgreens as your pharmacy provider, you should have heard from Walgreens by yesterday – Wednesday, December 9. If you have not heard from a Walgreens representative, email ImmunizeLTC@walgreens.com.

Next Steps on Pennsylvania’s Temporary Nurse Aide Program
Now that Senate Bill 1268 – the temporary nurse aide (TNA) legislation – has passed and been signed into law, we’ve gotten a number of questions surrounding its implementation and how TNAs make that transition to the CAN registry.

As it stands right now, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services are working together to develop the new process and framework. Given the waivers will remain in place through the current federal and state public health emergencies, nothing will change right now.

We do not expect the new process or framework to be proposed before the start of the new year. As we learn more and continue our work with the Wolf Administration to implement this new program, we will keep you posted.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed there were 11,972 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 3,269 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 457,289.

As of today, 5,852 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients,1,191 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,400 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Governor’s Office announced that Gov. Tom Wolf has tested positive for COVID-19. We send the governor our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

We’ve got several important updates and reminders to share with you today:

New COVID-19 Vaccine Resources from CVS and Walgreens Now Available 
We’ve been fielding a number of calls throughout the past few days regarding the required forms for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a reminder: during the registration process for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, you were asked to select between two options for your designated vaccine provider: CVS/Omnicare or Walgreens.

If you selected CVS/Omnicare as your pharmacy provider, you can find additional information on their online portal. To download the CVS/Omnicare vaccine consent form, click here.

If you selected Walgreens as your pharmacy provider, linked below are additional resources:

If you did not register for the program through the online portal OR for those members that registered with an LTC pharmacy but did not provide a back-up option with CVS or Walgreens: you must contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health as soon as possible to get your facility added to the CVS or Walgreens list by emailing ra-dhcovidvax@pa.gov.

For providers that DID indicate CVS or Walgreens via the online portal but have not yet heard back from them regarding next steps, you must go to the CVS or Walgreens website and fill out facility contact information.

Update on Act 24 COVID-19 Cost Reporting for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) issued a new alert regarding Act 24 cost reporting requirements for AL/PC providers. Please note two changes:

  • the deadline for the final report has been extended to December 31, 2020
  • those who already have access to the portal for COVID data reporting may also use the same login ID to access the CARES Act funding portal

DHS has developed this cost reporting form to capture provider information, COVID-19 utilization-related data, COVID-19-related staffing, expenditures and revenue losses and COVID-19-related revenue to determine net impact. DHS has created this tracking tool user guide and FAQ to help you complete the form.

Credentials to access the online portal were emailed to providers this week from the ra-unifiedsecurity@pa.gov email address:

  • New User – new users will receive two emails: one with the user ID and one with a temporary password.
  • Existing User with CFAST Role – those who already have access to the portal from using it to report COVID data can now access the portal for CARES Act Funding with the same login ID
  • Existing User with CFAST Role added – the user had an existing business partner user account in the Active Directory and CFAST Role was added to it so that it would allow them access to the portal

After the email is received, you may change the portal information for the individual submitting the cost reporting form using this user change request form. If one individual needs to report for multiple facilities, please complete this generic portal form and submit to act24reporting@pa.gov.

Questions regarding Act 24 reporting may be sent to act24reporting@pa.gov. Questions about accessing the online portal may be sent to ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of any assistance.

AHCA/NCAL Webinar: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
We have been advised by AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – that COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be starting as early as next week. Tomorrow, December 10 at 4 p.m., AHCA/NCAL will be hosting a webinar to walk providers through how to prepare for the impending COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and to promote high vaccination rates in your communities.

This webinar is open to all PHCA members. Registration is required, but lines are limited. The webinar will be recorded and made available if you are not able to join live.

To register, click here.

Project ECHO to Host New Webinar on Antibody Treatments
Project ECHO has announced a new webinar scheduled for tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. to provide an overview of the results of recent antibody treatment clinical trials, updates on treatment efficacy and lessons learned from clinical administration of these treatments in the long-term care setting.

To register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed there were 8,703 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 1,467 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 445,317.

As of today, 5,561 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients,1,160 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,300 since the end of September. As of this week, the statewide positivity rate is 14.4%.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020 – 5:45 p.m.

New COVID-19 Vaccine Resources from CVS and Walgreens Now Available 
We’ve been fielding a number of calls throughout the past few days regarding the required forms for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

As a reminder: during the registration process for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, you were asked to select between two options for your designated vaccine provider: CVS/Omnicare or Walgreens.

If you selected CVS/Omnicare as your pharmacy provider, you can find additional information on their online portal. To download the CVS/Omnicare vaccine consent form, click here.

If you selected Walgreens as your pharmacy provider, linked below are additional resources:

DOH Announces Ninth Round of Rapid Antigen Test Card Distributions 
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its ninth distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Carbon, Clarion, Lycoming, Northampton, Potter and York counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as the Secretary of Health’s order re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

AHCA/NCAL Announces New Webinar: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
We have been advised by AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – that COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be starting as early as next week. This Thursday, December 10 at 4 p.m., AHCA/NCAL will be hosting a webinar to walk providers through how to prepare for the impending COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and to promote high vaccination rates in your communities.

This webinar is open to all PHCA members. Registration is required, but lines are limited. The webinar will be recorded and made available if you are not able to join live.

To register, click here.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of yesterday’s data release, there are 59 Pennsylvania counties in the red zone and eight Pennsylvania counties in the yellow zone.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed there were 10,170 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 3,840 as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 436,614.

As of today, 5,421 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients,1,115 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,200 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Monday, December 7, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

It’s been a busy Monday here in Harrisburg, and we’ve got a number of important updates to share with you as we kick off the first full week of December:

AHCA/NCAL Announces New Webinar: Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
We have been advised by AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – that COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be starting as early as next week. This Thursday, December 10 at 4 p.m., AHCA/NCAL will be hosting a webinar to walk providers through how to prepare for the impending COVID-19 vaccine clinics, and to promote high vaccination rates in your communities.

This webinar is open to all PHCA members. Registration is required, but lines are limited. The webinar will be recorded and made available if you are not able to join live.

To register, click here.

HHS Announces $523M in COVID-19 Performance Payments for Nursing Homes
This afternoon, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will be distributing approximately $523 million in the second round of performance payments to more than 9,000 nursing homes throughout the country. These payments are being directed to facilities that have met certain metrics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a reminder: this performance-based payment structure was created to provide value-based funding to nursing homes that keep new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents lower than the communities they serve, as analyzed against CDC data.

HHS does not typically release a list of awardees; however, we’re working to better understand which Pennsylvania providers receive funding in this distribution. The funds should start flowing to providers on Wednesday.

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s data release, there are 59 Pennsylvania counties in the red zone and eight Pennsylvania counties in the yellow zone.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Free Training Sessions Now Available re: PPE Procedures, N95 Fit Testing
The Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Emergency Preparedness and Response has partnered with the Office of the Deputy Secretary for Quality Assurance to provide a series of training sessions across the state on the proper dress (don) and undress (doff) of personal protective equipment (PPE) and N95 fit testing with the required OSHA Screening and a Train-the-Trainer module.

To learn more, click here. If you have any questions regarding these trainings, you can reach out directly to Rocco DiPietro via email at rdipietro@cocciardi.com or via phone at 570-575-8107.

As always, our team at PHCA is happy to help in any way we can.

Project ECHO: Networks Recruiting Provider Participants
As a reminder, Project ECHO is actively recruiting nursing home providers to participate in a 16-week interactive virtual community to advance COVID-19 preparedness efforts, safety, and infection control. This program is supported by the federal agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Nursing homes that actively participate in the 16-week training are eligible to receive $6,000 in additional funding from the Provider Relief Fund.

Registration closes Friday, December 18. To learn more or to register, click here.

Reminder: PHCA Testing Resources Available
As a reminder, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher on our staff.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed there were 6,330 new cases, in addition to 8,630 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 14,960 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 426,444.

As of today, 5,300 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients,1,107 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 4,000 since the end of September. As of today, the statewide percent-positivity went up to 14.4% from 11.7% last week. Every county in the state has a percent positivity rate above 5%.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Friday, December 4, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We have an important update to share related to the COVID-19 vaccination enrollment program:

Update on the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care (LTC) Program
Earlier today, we received an update from AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – regarding the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.

For any PHCA members that did not register for the program through the online portal OR for members that registered with an LTC pharmacy but did not provide a back-up option with CVS or Walgreens: you must email the Pennsylvania Department of Health as soon as possible to get your facility added to the CVS or Walgreens list, as we’ve been advised this list is being finalized over the weekend. Be sure to send your email to ra-dhcovidvax@pa.gov.

For providers that DID indicate CVS or Walgreens via the online portal but have not yet heard back from them regarding next steps, you must go to the CVS or Walgreens website and fill out facility contact information.

It’s our understanding CVS and Walgreens are still in the process of contacting all the SNFs assigned to them.

Reminder: Sign our COVID-19 Vaccination Petition!
Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine: while it is still possible that the first round of vaccines will be available in the next few weeks – potentially by the end of December – it has become clear that each state will now have more discretion as to who the priority population will be. In other words, the Wolf Administration here in PA can choose to prioritize hospitals or schools before long-term care.

During today’s DOH COVID-19 Vaccination office hours, speakers did allude to long-term care residents and staff receiving priority. However, nothing has been finalized yet.

So, as a reminder, we’re asking you to take action!

Sign our petition and urge Governor Tom Wolf, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, and state officials to prioritize our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians and their providers of care.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 11,763 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 357 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 398,600. This is another record-high for new cases in PA.

As of today, 5,071 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 1,065 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,500 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Thursday, December 3, 2020 – 6 p.m.

We have a few updates from the Department of Health to share with you today, as well as new office hours related to the state’s COVID-19 vaccination enrollment program.

And, as we’ve (unfortunately) had to report quite a bit throughout the last few weeks, we saw another record-setting day of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania:

DOH to Hold COVID-19 Vaccination Office Hours Tomorrow
Tomorrow – Friday, December 4 – at 3 p.m., representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force will be holding office hours to provide information and take questions related to provider enrollment and the provider agreement.

To join the call, click here.

To join the call via phone, please dial 267-332-8737 and use the phone conference ID code 705-996-373#.

DOH Releases Clarification on Emergent and Non-Emergent Testing
After consultation with CMS, the Department of Health has released new guidance related to emergent and non-emergent testing.

As part of ongoing efforts to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 among nursing home residents, personnel providing non-emergent medical transportation to this population should be tested for the virus. Examples of non-emergent medical transportation include routine transportation of residents to physician appointments, dialysis appointments, or chemotherapy appointments.

Personnel providing such services should be tested by the nursing facility or provide documentation that required testing was completed during the timeframe that corresponds to the facility’s testing frequency.

Affected personnel should work with appropriate facilities and local health departments to determine specific testing requirements to comply with this CMS directive.

Individuals providing emergency services, such as EMS workers or law enforcement officers, are not required to undergo testing or show proof of testing, and they should not be delayed in responding to emergency situations.

Reminder: Sign our COVID-19 Vaccination Petition!
Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine: while it is still possible that the first round of vaccines will be available in the next few weeks – potentially by the end of December – it has become clear that each state will now have more discretion as to who the priority population will be. In other words, the Wolf Administration here in PA can choose to prioritize hospitals or schools before long-term care.

As a reminder, we’re asking you to take action!

Sign our petition and urge Governor Tom Wolf, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, and state officials to prioritize our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians and their providers of care.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about the vaccine and its distribution.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 11,406 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 3,115 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 386,837.

As of today, 4,982 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 1,048 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,500 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Arguably the biggest issue of the last few days has been the COVID-19 vaccine, and which segment of the population will be prioritized for the first phase of its distribution.

Last night, a panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should be the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The vote was 13-1, and the recommendation now must be approved by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

As you’ll recall, distribution to long-term care will largely be handled by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, and they are supposed to prioritize the residents in skilled nursing facilities. But a great deal has changed throughout the past several days – we’ve got more on that and other updates for you below:

Urgent Update on Prioritization, Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccination Program
Here’s what we know about the COVID-19 vaccine now: while it is still possible that the first round of vaccines will be available in the next few weeks – potentially by the end of December – it has become clear that each state will now have more discretion as to who the priority population will be. In other words, the Wolf Administration here in Pennsylvania can choose to prioritize hospitals or schools before long-term care.

That’s why we need your help!

We’re asking you to take action and sign our petition urging Governor Tom Wolf, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, and state officials to apply the framework outlined by the CDC, adopt its recommendation, and prioritize our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians and their providers of care.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about the vaccine and its distribution.

Interim Act 24 Cost Reporting for Nursing Facilities Delayed to Tuesday, December 8
The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) has extended the due date by which nursing facilities should submit interim reports on COVID-19 impacts and the use of Act 24 funding.

Interim reports should be submitted by close of business this Tuesday, December 8.

Nursing facilities can submit interim reports via the DHS CARES Act Funding Tracking Tool. If you have not received your username and password for the tracking tool and have not previously submitted a request for access, please use the DHS COVID Tracking – User Change Request form to request credentials.

If you have already submitted a request for access, you can expect to receive your username and password within two business days.

If you have any questions about the reporting process, you can reach out to OLTL at act24reporting@pa.gov.

DOH Announces Eighth Round of Rapid Antigen Test Card Distributions 
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its eighth distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Fulton and Jefferson counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as the Secretary of Health’s order re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of yesterday’s release, all Pennsylvania counties are in the red or yellow phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 8,291 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 2,615 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 375,431.

As of today, 4,744 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 967 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,300 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

IMPORTANT Update on Act 24 Interim Reporting for Skilled Nursing Providers
Late this afternoon, we were advised by DHS that Act 24 interim reporting has been delayed until next Tuesday, December 8. This interim report was initially due yesterday; however, the Department experienced a number of issues in distributing required credentials for the reporting platform.

If you have not received your credentials to date, but have submitted a request to receive the credentials, you should receive an email with the necessary information by the end of this week.

If you do not receive the credentials to access the web portal by close of business this Thursday, December 3, please reach out to Gail Weidman on our team. 

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release, all Pennsylvania counties are in the red or yellow phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Reminder: PHCA Testing Vendor Resource Available
We have begun to field concerns that testing turnaround times are, once again, creating challenges for providers. As a reminder, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – and this list has been updated as of October 5.

Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher on our staff.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 5,676 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,407 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 367,140.

As of today, 4,631 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 970 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,200 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Monday, November 30, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

First, we hope you had an opportunity to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. We know that, for many of our members, there was no time off – there was simply more time spent caring for residents and keeping your fellow staff members safe.

For that, we thank you, and we couldn’t be more proud to continue advocating on your behalf here in Harrisburg.

We have several updates to share with you as we wrap up the month of November:

Gov. Wolf Vetoes House Bill 1737, Which Would Have Provided Limited, Temporary Liability Protections for Long-Term Care Providers
Late this afternoon, Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 1737, which would have granted temporary, limited liability protections for Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers, schools, businesses and others amid the continued COVID-19 emergency.

We issued a strong statement today calling out Gov. Wolf’s actions for undermining and threatening the care of thousands of Pennsylvania’s seniors. You can read that statement here.

Please know this fight is far from over. PHCA will continue to advocate for liability protections for Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers, especially as the resurgence of COVID-19 – and the accompanying barrage of frivolous lawsuits and skyrocketing liability insurance costs – threatens the care of our most vulnerable residents.

DOH Releases Updated Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities
The Department of Health released updated interim guidance for skilled nursing facilities during COVID-19. Revisions to the interim guidance – first released on October 13 – are displayed in red.

The most significant update relates to the Department of Health’s new COVID Alert PA app, which can be downloaded to your smartphone. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team if you have any questions.

DOH Releases NEW PA-HAN re: Testing, Management of COVID-19 and Flu
Earlier today, the Department of Health released a new PAHAN – PAHAN-537 – outlining testing and management considerations for long-term care residents with acute respiratory symptoms (given that COVID-19 and the flu viruses are co-circulating). Highlights of this new guidance include:

  • placing symptomatic residents in transmission-based precautions, using all recommended PPE
  • testing any resident with symptoms of COVID-19 or flu for both viruses
  • placement decisions and clinical management recommendations
  • reporting requirements for flu testing

If you have any questions about this new guidance, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

PHCA in the News: Continuing to Change the Long-Term Care Narrative
Over the past several weeks, we’ve spoken with a number of reporters from across the state and fielded several media inquiries regarding the challenges facing long-term care providers. Here are several stories that showcase your first-hand experiences from the front lines:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 4,268 new cases, in addition to 5,529 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 9,797 positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the statewide total to 361,464.

As of today, 4,405 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 918 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 3,000 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

It’s no secret – 2020 has been a challenging year.

And in the midst of all of the tests facing long-term care providers in Pennsylvania, you have remained committed to your colleagues, your residents, and your ultimate mission: to keep our most vulnerable safe and to provide high-quality care every day.

At PHCA, we couldn’t be more proud to represent you, and we remain incredibly grateful for our long-term care heroes.

Before we dive into today’s update, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch this video, dedicated to you.

From the entire PHCA team: thank you for all that you do and continue to do – day in and day out – to protect your residents and your communities.

We’ve also got a few updates to share with you before we take a brief hiatus…but don’t worry! We’ll be back with your regularly scheduled updates on Monday, November 30. And if there’s anything you need from us in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

BREAKING NEWS! Gov. Wolf Signs Senate Bill 1268, Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation, Into Law
We have terrific news to report: earlier today, Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 1268, our temporary nurse aide legislation, which had passed the state General Assembly unanimously. The bill now becomes law!

As a reminder, this legislation will allow TNAs hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to become CNAs, as long as they meet certain training requirements.

Thank you for all your support on this important initiative, and we are extremely proud to have accomplished this with you.

DHS Releases Updated COVID-19 Guidance for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, the Department of Human Services released updated guidance for all assisted living and personal care providers, including new information related to visitation and non-medical outings. Additionally, there is a table on page 13 of the guidance that provides guidelines based on the level of community transmission.

All updates to the guidance have been made in red.

As always, our team is happy to work directly with DHS on your behalf to get answers to your questions or request any clarifications on this guidance you may need.

One Time, Free PCR Testing Opportunity Available with Corteva Agriscience
On Friday, December 18, Corteva plans to simultaneously receive approximately 100,000
samples from individuals across the United States. Results are planned to be returned electronically to all participants within 24-48 hours of collection.

To learn more, or if you are interested in participating in this study, we’ve compiled some additional resources for your review, including a project descriptionFAQ document and IRB notice.

If you are interested in this program, please reply to barryjd@prahs.com with a contact name, phone number and email. A team member from PRA Health Sciences will contact you with further information.

PHCA, LeadingAge PA Send Joint Letter to DOH Secretary Levine re: Data Reporting Challenges
Earlier today, PHCA and LeadingAge PA sent a joint letter to Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, addressing a letter regarding data input from the Department that was recently sent to nursing facilities.

We continue to hear from providers who are concerned about this letter, which was sent in early November. So we took a stand, and we’ll keep you updated as we continue discussions with DOH.

Gov. Wolf Signs Renewal of COVID-19 Disaster Declaration; Staffing and Regulatory Waivers to Continue
Yesterday, Gov. Wolf signed a third renewal of his 90-day Proclamation of Disaster Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, extending many of the staffing, regulatory and administrative waivers granted to long-term care providers back in March.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 6,759 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 90 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 327,829.

As of today, 3,897 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 826 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 2,300 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 – 5:14 p.m.

Earlier today, we wrapped up the final LIVE day of UNCONVENTIONAL 2020 – the PHCA virtual convention and trade show. Thank you to those who joined us throughout these past few weeks, and for taking part in what has been a truly revolutionary step forward in the evolution of PHCA’s education and networking offerings.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our more than 40 on-demand educational sessions, don’t worry! You can still access all our content through December 1st.

We’ve got a few updates to share with you:

DOH Announces Seventh Round of Rapid Antigen Test Card Distributions 
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its seventh distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Bucks, Juniata, Mercer and Somerset counties.
As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as the Secretary of Health’s order re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.
If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Update on Nurse Aide Training and Evaluation Program (NATCEP) Testing
Earlier today, the Office of Long-Term Living announced that, given new restrictions and mitigation efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse aide testing has been severely impacted and, in most cases, canceled.

Facilities needing information about the cancellation of events can contact facilitysupport@getcredentia.com. Training programs with questions should contact vuenurseaide@pearson.com.

In addition to any canceled events, Pearson VUE Pennsylvania Nurse Aide Department staff in Philadelphia are once again going back to working from home.

If you have questions concerning a score report, Pearson VUE login, or scheduling a Nurse Aide exam, please call 800-457-6752. Any questions regarding the PA Nurse Aide Registry should be emailed to panaregistry@pearson.com.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of yesterday’s release, there were 20 counties in the yellow phase and 38 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Additional Resources re: Holiday Visitation Recommendations Now Available
Last week, the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP) hosted a webinar specific to holiday safety recommendations, a portion of which was presented by representatives from the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL). Linked here is the presentation, which we thought may be useful as you work to address holiday celebrations with your residents and families.

As a reminder, CMS has also released an alert announcing holiday visitation and leave recommendations. We also have a few resources for you to reference when developing your holiday policies and procedures:

Additionally, we’ve developed a letter for families regarding holiday outings, which you may customize as needed. To download the letter, click here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. We hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 6,669 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,907 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 321,070.

As of today, 3,459 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19 – an increase of . Of those patients, 767 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 2,200 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Monday, November 23, 2020 – 5:44 p.m.

As we kick off the Thanksgiving week and the final “live” week of UNCONVENTIONAL 2020 – the PHCA virtual convention and trade show – we have several important updates for you:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release, there are currently 20 counties in the yellow phase and 38 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

CDC Releases Updated Testing Considerations and Reinfection Criteria
With the continued threat of the COVID-19 and influenza viruses co-circulating, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updates to testing considerations for nursing home residents with acute respiratory symptoms. The CDC urges providers to consider these practices when both viruses are found in the community as confirmed by local health surveillance data and testing at local healthcare facilities.

These considerations are specific to nursing homes but can be adapted for use in other settings, including assisted living and personal care. These considerations include:

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Wolf Administration Announces New Mitigation Efforts to Reduce Spread of COVID-19
During a press conference earlier today, Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced new mitigation efforts aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Requiring Safety Measures in Schools – All Pre-K through 12 public schools in counties that have been in the substantial transmission level for at least two consecutive weeks must commit to ordered safety measures or must move to fully remote learning with no extracurricular activities.
  • Revising and Reissuing Safety Requirements for Businesses, Workers – This order consolidates previous orders and reiterates cleaning and social distancing requirements, mandatory telework requirements unless impossible and other safety measures.
  • Strengthening Gathering Limitations – All large events and gatherings are now reduced until further notice. Maximum capacity for indoor events has been reduced including no indoor events of more than 500 people. Household gatherings are advised against if attendees include non-household members.
  • Ramping Up Enforcement – Orders issued by Gov. Wolf and the Secretary of Health have been issued with the force and effect of law, which extends to all law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth. Local law enforcement has received guidance on enforcement steps which include issuing citations, fines and potential regulatory actions for repeat offenders for all orders including out-of-state travel,  mask-wearing, business safety, restaurant mitigation, gathering limits, school mitigation, etc.

If you have any questions on these new mitigation efforts, please let us know.

Reminder: CMP Grant Funding Available to Help Facilitate In-Person Visitation
In an effort to ensure providers have access to funding to purchase supplies necessary to help facilitate in-person visitation between residents and their loved ones (as outlined in CMS QSO-20-39-NH), providers are now able to apply for CMP grant funding to purchase tents and/or clear dividers to help ensure appropriate social distancing and infection control protocols. CMS has developed this FAQ to ensure your facility’s request meets the requirements.

The following items were updated in the application template and reflected in the frequently asked questions document and approval letter:

  • CMS clarified that CMPs can be used to purchase shelters other than tents strictly for the purposes of in-person visitation.
  • The $3,000 funding limit per facility can include installation materials and shipping costs for the in-person visitation aids.
  • Air purifiers have been added to the list of prohibited items.
  • CMS clarified that expenses incurred on or after the release of Memorandum QSO 20-39-NH (September 17, 2020) are eligible for reimbursement.

When submitting your application, be sure to include:

  • COVID-19 in-person visitation application
  • three quotes for the allowable aides and a statement justifying why the facility chose their selected vendor
  • Preliminary in-person visitation general invoice – Please make sure that the description and costs of the visitation aides on the invoice and the CMS application match.
  • include each facility’s PA Medicaid Provider Number (MPI) and/or if each facility is Medicare Certified Only in the body of the email with the application request

All documents must be submitted to RA-PWCMPGRANTS@pa.gov no later than Thursday, December 31, 2020.

If you have any questions about this grant program or the application process, please contact the Office of Long Term-Living at 717-772-2570 or email RA-PWCMPGRANTS@pa.gov.

Additional Resources re: Holiday Visitation Recommendations Now Available
Last week, the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP) hosted a webinar specific to holiday safety recommendations, a portion of which was presented by representatives from the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL). Linked here is the presentation slides which we thought may be useful as you work to address holiday celebrations with your residents and families.

As a reminder, CMS has also released an alert announcing holiday visitation and leave recommendations. We also have a few resources for you to reference when developing your holiday policies and procedures:

Additionally, we’ve developed a letter for families regarding holiday outings, which you may customize as needed. To download the letter, click here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. We hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 4,762 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 7,075 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 11,837 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 314,401.

As of today, 3,379 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 775 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 2,100 since the end of September. According to modeling available from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Pennsylvania could run out of intensive care beds by December.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

 

Friday, November 20, 2020 – 5 p.m.

Amidst a week of continued record-setting numbers of COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth, we’ve got some really exciting news to share:

COVID-19 Liability Protections Pass the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Head to the Governor’s Desk!
That’s correct: we are officially one step closer to securing COVID-19 liability protections for long-term care providers, workers and residents in Pennsylvania.

This morning, PHCA members sent more than 500 emails to state House members, urging them to support House Bill 1737, which would grant liability protections to long-term care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This afternoon, the House of Representatives voted in favor of House Bill 1737, by a vote of 104-98! The bill now goes to Governor Wolf’s desk, where it awaits either his signature or veto.

We want to thank you for your advocacy this morning. You are the reason this bill succeeded on the House floor.

As always, thank you for your support. We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

Reminder: CMS Releases New Alert Regarding Holiday Visitation
Yesterday afternoon, CMS released a new alert announcing holiday visitation and leave recommendations.

CMS recommends that all staff, residents and visitors should continue to follow the guidelines for visitation they released in late September. Families, residents, and providers must work together to take precautions during the holidays to help reduce the risk of spread while supporting family and resident engagement as much as possible.

In addition, CMS strongly recommends against residents leaving a nursing home for the holiday, given the increased risk for exposure to COVID-19.

We have a few resources for you to reference when developing your holiday policies and procedures:

We’ve also developed a letter for families regarding holiday outings, which you may customize as needed. To download the letter, click here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. We hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 6,808 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 318 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 295,786.

As of today, 2,952 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19 – an increase of 48 as compared to yesterday. Of those patients, 659 are receiving intensive care. More data is available here.

The trend in the 14-day moving average of the number of hospitalized patients per day has increased by nearly 1,800 since the end of September.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Thursday, November 19, 2020 – 7:15 p.m.

Earlier today, CMS released a new alert regarding holiday visitation, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced yet another record-breaking total of daily confirmed cases of COVID-19.

See below to learn more:

CMS Releases New Alert Regarding Holiday Visitation
Earlier today, CMS released a new alert announcing holiday visitation and leave recommendations.

CMS recommends that all staff, residents and visitors should continue to follow the guidelines for visitation they released in late September. Families, residents, and providers must work together to take precautions during the holidays to help reduce the risk of spread while supporting family and resident engagement as much as possible.

In addition, CMS strongly recommends against residents leaving a nursing home for the holiday, given the increased risk for exposure to COVID-19.

We have a couple of resources for you to reference when developing your holiday policies and procedures:

We’ve also developed a letter for families regarding holiday outings, which you may customize as needed. To download the letter, click here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. We hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

OLTL Adds Second Act 24 Cost Reporting Webinar for Non-Skilled Nursing Providers
As we shared last Friday, DHS has eliminated the Act 24 interim reporting requirement for AL/PC providers. The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will be hosting a webinar this Friday, November 20 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to provide information on the Act 24 cost report and to give providers a chance to ask questions.

If you are unable to attend tomorrow’s webinar, OLTL will be hosting a second webinar for non-skilled nursing providers on Tuesday, December 1 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

To register for tomorrow’s webinar, click here.

To register for the webinar scheduled for December 1, click here.

If you have questions for OLTL regarding the reporting process, email act24reporting@pa.gov.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 7,126 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 787 cases as compared to yesterday – and the highest daily increase in confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This brings the statewide total to 288,978.

As of today, 2,904 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19 – an increase of 167 as compared to yesterday. Of those patients, 628 are receiving intensive care.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 – 6:45 p.m.

If we’ve learned anything as we travel – albeit virtually – throughout the state during our UNCONVENTIONAL regional roundtables, it’s that the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and new outbreaks in your buildings are creating incredible challenges for you and your staff.

We know that you’re working in hours and minutes – not days and weeks. And as we prepare for continued increases in cases, you can be sure that we’ll continue to share new and important information with you each and every day.

Just before sending this update, CMS confirmed it will be issuing guidance for providers on how to manage residents and staff who may want to visit loved ones during the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll share this new guidance with you as soon as it is released.

Additionally, we have a number of important updates for you today:

Great News for LTC Providers: Senate Bill 1268 Unanimously Passes House of Representatives, Heads to Governor Tom Wolf’s Desk for His Signature
This afternoon, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1268 – temporary nurse aide (TNA) legislation we’ve supported – unanimously, and with bipartisan support. As a reminder, this legislation would allow TNAs hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to become CNAs, as long as they meet certain training requirements.

The bill now heads to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk, where it will await his signature to become law. We look forward to working with Governor Wolf to ensure these healthcare heroes can continue their service long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

You can read our media statement on today’s news here.

Thanks for your continued support and advocacy on this issue! This is terrific news for the thousands of TNAs throughout PA, and for our members who have utilized this important program.

OLTL to Host Act 24 Cost Reporting Webinar for Non-Skilled Nursing Providers
As we shared last Friday, DHS has eliminated the Act 24 interim reporting requirement for AL/PC providers. The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will be hosting a webinar this Friday, November 20 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to provide information on the Act 24 cost report and to give providers a chance to ask questions.

Providers are encouraged to register early and limit attendance to no more than two individuals per organization.

To register for this webinar, click here.

If you have questions for OLTL regarding the reporting process, email act24reporting@pa.gov.

Project ECHO Announces New Hub in Pennsylvania
Over the past several months, we’ve shared information with you about the AHRQ ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network – a CMS initiative – that has begun actively recruiting nursing homes around the country to join an interactive community of practice to advance improvements in COVID-19 preparedness, safety and infection control.

Last Friday, we met with the University of Massachusetts, which was recently announced as the leader of a new hub in Pennsylvania. We encourage you to learn more about the program and to consider participating. To enroll, complete this Excel form and send it to the contacts listed in the program resource.

As a reminder, this program is open to any Medicare or Medicaid-certified nursing home at no cost.

DOH Releases Updated FAQs re: Use and Distribution of PPE
The Department of Health has posted updated FAQs related to the use and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) with new information incorporating additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on extended use and reuse of respirators.

If we can help in any way, please let us know.

RRHCP Offers Webinar on Holiday Considerations During COVID-19
Earlier today, we received notice that the RRHCPs will be offering a new webinar tomorrow – Thursday, November 19 – at 2 p.m. on holiday considerations during COVID-19. To register, click here.

As a reminder, PHCA has developed a resource for considerations for the holiday season, and we will update this resource as formal guidance or recommendations are released.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman, Chris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. And we hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday afternoon, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of yesterday’s release, there were 45 counties in the yellow phase and 16 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 6,339 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 439 cases as compared to yesterday – and the highest daily increase in confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This brings the statewide total to 281,852.

As of today, 2,737 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19 – an increase of 162 as compared to yesterday. Of those patients, 579 are receiving intensive care.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.

Earlier today, during today’s UNCONVENTIONAL live session, we sat down for a very special discussion with CMS Administrator Seema Verma. We spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care in PA, and the future of our sector – and how we must adapt to the changing world around us.

Just minutes after our conversation ended, CMS released new county-level positivity data, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced another record-breaking day of confirmed cases, as well as new mitigation efforts.

This is all to say: we have a few very important updates for you.

Click below to learn more:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release, there are currently 45 counties in the yellow phase and 16 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Announces Its Sixth Round of Rapid Antigen Test Card Distributions 
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its sixth distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Bedford, Cambria, Franklin, Lancaster and Lehigh counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as the Secretary of Health’s order re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Wolf Administration, DOH Announce New Mitigation Efforts to Reduce Spread of COVID-19
Earlier today, DOH Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine hosted a media-only briefing, in which she announced four new statewide mitigation efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These efforts include:

  • Preparing for hospital surge – DOH has issued a new memorandum to hospitals directing them to move up elective procedures necessary to protect a person’s health and prepare to suspend elective procedures should the health care system become strained.
  • Required testing for travelers – DOH has issued an order requiring anyone who visits Pennsylvania from another state OR those who reside in Pennsylvania who are returning following a visit to another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth. If testing is not available or if an individual chooses not to take a test, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arriving or returning to Pennsylvania. This order goes into effect this Friday, November 20 and does not apply to people who commute to and from another state for work and/or medical treatment.
  • Strengthened mask order – DOH issued a strengthened mask order that requires masking at any time (indoors or outdoors) if you are away from your home and with other individuals who are not part of your household. Masks must be worn in every indoor facility including homes, retail establishments, gyms, doctors’ offices, public transportation and anywhere food is prepared, packaged or served.
  • Recommendations for colleges and universities – DOH and the Department of Education have issued new recommendations urging colleges and universities to implement a testing plan for when students return to campus following the holidays including routine testing protocols.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Reminder: PHCA Develops New Resource for Holiday Season Considerations
PHCA has developed a resource for considerations for the holiday season, and we will update this resource as formal guidance or recommendations are released.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman, Chris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. And we hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 5,900 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,424 cases as compared to yesterday – and the highest daily increase in confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This brings the statewide total to 275,513.

As of today, 2,575 Pennsylvanians are hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 558 are receiving intensive care.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

PHCA UNCONVENTIONAL Extended Until December 1st!
Because we want to ensure that every one of our Convention attendees has more than enough time to view each and every one of our 40+ educational sessions this year, we’ve made the decision to formally extend our Convention to Tuesday, December 1st!

That’s right: you’ll have an extra week to earn CEUs and watch our sessions.

And if you’re still not registered? Click here and join us!

 

Monday, November 16, 2020 – 6:45 p.m.

Philadelphia to Launch New COVID-19 Restrictions Beginning Friday (11/20)
Earlier today, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced that the city of Philadelphia will close indoor restaurant dining, gyms, and museums starting this Friday. Additionally, office workers will be required to work remotely…all in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as new cases surge.

The new restrictions will last through January 1 and will include limits on outdoor gatherings and a ban on public and private indoor gatherings. Daycares, elementary schools, and middle schools will be permitted to continue in-person instruction.

We have been in touch with the Department of Health to understand what this might mean for in-person visitation in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes. We will update you as soon as we learn more.

DOH Releases New Hospital Guidance re: COVID Testing LTC Residents Prior to Discharge
Earlier today, the Department of Health released new guidance re: the time frame for the testing of residents prior to discharge to a nursing facility, assisted living community, or personal care home. According to the new guidance:

Patients who are not currently exhibiting symptoms of COVID and who tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days do not need to be tested prior to discharge. The test must be administered within the 72-hour period prior to discharge, and the result must be obtained prior to discharge. If a test is administered upon admission to the facility, and the resident is discharged within the 72-hour period, a second test is not required.  

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

AHCA/NCAL Launches New Provider Survey to Better Understand COVID Impact
AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is asking all providers (SNF, AL, PC) to complete a survey re: COVID’s impact on several operational issues including workforce, personal protective equipment, testing, and finances.

The survey should take 15-20 minutes to complete and will remain open until next Friday.

Reminder: PHCA Develops New Resource for Holiday Season Considerations
Over the past several weeks, we’ve reached out to the Department of Health regarding potential guidance around holiday visits, and we’ve been told the department will not be issuing any formal recommendations.

So, in true PHCA fashion: we developed our own. Our team has developed a resource for considerations for the holiday season, and we will update this resource as formal guidance or recommendations are released.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman, Chris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. And we hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

OLTL to Host Act 24 Cost Reporting Webinar for Non-Skilled Nursing Providers
As we shared last Friday, DHS has eliminated the Act 24 interim reporting requirement for AL/PC providers. The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will be hosting a webinar this Friday, November 20 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to provide information on the Act 24 cost report and to give providers a chance to ask questions.

Providers are encouraged to register early and limit attendance to no more than two individuals per organization.

To register for this webinar, click here.

If you have questions for OLTL regarding the reporting process, email act24reporting@pa.gov.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 4,476 new cases, in addition to 5,199 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 9,675 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 269,613.

The statewide positivity rate for the week of November 6 through November 12 was 9.6%.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Friday, November 13, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

PHCA Develops New Resource for Holiday Season Considerations
As we shared with you on Monday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has indicated it is considering guidance surrounding visitation during the holiday season.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve reached out to the Department of Health regarding potential guidance around holiday visits, and at this point in time, we’ve been told the department will not be issuing any formal recommendations.

So, in true PHCA fashion: we developed our own. Our team has developed a resource for considerations for the holiday season, and we will update this resource as formal guidance or recommendations are released.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman, Chris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our team. And we hope this will be helpful to you and your colleagues.

Project ECHO: Networks Now Recruiting Provider Participants
Project ECHO is now actively recruiting nursing home providers to participate in a 16-week interactive virtual community to advance COVID-19 preparedness efforts, safety, and infection control.

This program is supported by the federal agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).
SNF providers are eligible to receive funding from the federal Provider Relief Fund, as long as facility leadership actively participates in a 16-week training.
To complete an interest form that will connect you to a nearby training center, click here.
To join the webinar series ‘National Nursing Home COVID-19 Safety Conversations’, click here.

Two Important Announcements from CMS
Late yesterday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma hosted a call with long-term care associations and providers, in which she shared two important announcements regarding the ongoing response to COVID-19:

1. Over the next several weeks, CMS or state surveyors will be calling nursing homes who report new cases of COVID and/or report shortages of PPE and/or staffing to offer assistance.

They will ask several questions to see how they can help the facility acquire resources such as staffing, PPE or testing supplies. We have heard that these questions may be similar to:

  • Do you have enough PPE in the facility for one week?
  • Do you have enough staff in the facility to care for residents in proper cohort sections?
  • What percentage of your staff completed the CMS/CDC training online?
  • What is the frequency of resident/staff testing currently?
  • How did your outbreak occur (staff, residents, visitor, vendor, other)?
  • What is the availability of test kits? For all residents/all staff? How long will they last?

If you receive one of these calls, please let us know your experience, including any resulting assistance, by emailing us at COVID19@ahca.org.

2. CMS will be publishing a list of facilities that have completed the CMS 3 to 4-hour QIO trainings.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Reminder: OLTL to Host Act 24 Cost Reporting Webinar for Skilled Nursing Facilities
As we shared last Friday, DHS has delayed the Act 24 interim reporting requirement to Monday, November 30. The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will be hosting a webinar this Monday, November 16 at 1 p.m. to provide information on the Act 24 cost report and to give providers a chance to ask questions.

To register for this webinar, click here.

As a reminder: DHS has provided three provider-specific templates for reporting:

SNF administrators should expect to receive an email with instructions on accessing the web-portal no later than the end of this week. If you have questions for OLTL regarding the reporting process, email act24reporting@pa.gov.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
For the fifth time in the last week, Pennsylvania set a new COVID-19 record today: the Department of Health reported 5,531 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 43 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 254,387.

There have been a total of 28,290 positive cases reported in the past seven days.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

 

Thursday, November 12, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We have several important updates to share with you today, including another record-setting report of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth.

It certainly seems like we’re saying that every day, doesn’t it?

PHCA Joins State House Aging Committee Today to Testify on RRHCP Program
Earlier today, PHCA participated in a public hearing before the state House of Representatives’ Aging and Older Adult Services Committee. The purpose of the hearing was to learn about the state’s Regional Response Health Collaboration Program, or RRHCP, and its effectiveness in supporting our membership.

During the hearing, several members of the committee called on state officials to not only consider feedback from PHCA and long-term care providers but to actively seek input from providers to ensure this program serves your needs.

We called for real reform, as well as a seat at the table moving forward. And it certainly appears as if that will occur.

We couldn’t have shared this strong message with members of the committee today without your feedback and support thus far. Thanks again to those who contributed to our RRHCP survey.

You can read our testimony here.

New Update on HHS NHSN Reporting Requirements
In an updated memo from HHS, point-of-care testing results are now required as part of the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) system. The HHS memo identifies that “CMS-certified long term care facilities shall submit point-of-care COVID-19 testing data, including antigen testing data, to CDC’s NHSN.”​

To report the point-of-care test results to NHSN, facilities will need to upgrade from SAMS Level-1 access to SAMS Level-3 access. While this new requirement goes into effect immediately, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – has been told that enforcement discretion will be utilized until November 20 to allow time for centers to make the upgrade from Level-1 to Level-3.

Centers must immediately take action to upgrade from Level-1 to Level-3 to meet this new requirement and avoid enforcement penalties. This process can take up to four weeks, so please do not delay.

Alternatively, facilities can email nhsn@cdc.gov with the subject line “Enhancing Data Security” to begin upgrading their SAMS access to use this Pathway.

If you have questions or if you need assistance, please reach out to our team.

OLTL to Host Act 24 Cost Reporting Webinar for Skilled Nursing Facilities
As we shared last Friday, DHS has delayed the Act 24 interim reporting requirement to Monday, November 30. The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) will be hosting a webinar this Monday, November 16 at 1 p.m. to provide information on the Act 24 cost report and to give providers a chance to ask questions.

To register for this webinar, click here.

As a reminder: DHS has provided three provider-specific templates for reporting:

SNF administrators should expect to receive an email with instructions on accessing the web-portal no later than the end of this week. If you have questions for OLTL regarding the reporting process, email act24reporting@pa.gov.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
For the fourth time in the last week, Pennsylvania set a new COVID-19 record today: the Department of Health reported 5,488 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 777 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 248,856.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 – 6:15 p.m.

As day two of UNCONVENTIONAL, the PHCA Convention and Trade Show, comes to a close, we can’t tell you how exciting it has been to see the hundreds of attendees who have joined us for our opening live session, our live virtual expo hall hours, our first regional roundtable, and our 40+ on-demand sessions.

For those who are registered: keep an eye out for our UNCONVENTIONAL morning update at 8:30 a.m. for a sneak peek at what you can expect!

And if you’re not signed up for our convention, register today to experience everything we have to offer!

Additionally, here are a few important announcements to share with you, as well as another record-setting day of COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth:

DOH Releases Updated PAHAN for Notification of COVID-19 Test Results
Today, the Department of Health released an updated PA-HAN – PAHAN-535 – which outlines recommendations when evaluating patients for COVID-19. You can download COVID-19 patient instructions and the COVID-19 close contact worksheet below:

If you have any questions about this updated PAHAN, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release of positivity data, there are currently 39 counties in the yellow phase and 8 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
For the third time in just the last week, Pennsylvania set a new COVID-19 daily record. Earlier today, the Department of Health reported 4,711 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 350 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 243,368.

As of today, 1,938 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and almost 60 new deaths were reported.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Convention week is officially here!

Today at noon, we kicked off UNCONVENTIONAL 2020 – PHCA’s virtual convention and trade show – with a look back at the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a look forward to the future of long-term care in Pennsylvania.

We were joined by AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson, who shared his perspectives on what the pandemic has meant for long-term care nationwide, and what our sector can expect in Washington, D.C. in the coming months –and beyond.

Did you miss today’s live session? Don’t worry: this session – along with 40+ other educational sessions for skilled nursing and assisted living/personal care providers – are available to you on-demand.

But you have to be registered for UNCONVENTIONAL!

So, the question is: are you registered?

Additionally, here are a few important announcements to share with you today, as well as another record-setting day of COVID-19 cases across the Commonwealth:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. As of today’s release of positivity data, there are currently 39 counties in the yellow phase and 8 counties in the red phase.

A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate as well as the required testing frequency protocols here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Announces New Distribution of Antigen Test Kit Shipments
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its fifth distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Armstrong, Dauphin, Delaware and Indiana counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as the Secretary of Health’s order re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

AHCA/NCAL Quality Awards Intent to Apply Deadline: Thursday, November 12
Just a reminder: the Quality Award Intent to Apply deadline is this Thursday, November 12 at 8 p.m. Be sure to take a look at the application and resources section on the Quality Award website – updated requirements have been added for reference.

And don’t forget, Chris Fisher and Pete Tartline on our PHCA staff are available to review your application and answer any questions you may have.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Another day, another record total of reported COVID-19 cases.

Earlier today, the Department of Health reported 4,361 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 959 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 238,687.

This is the highest daily increase of cases in Pennsylvania since the pandemic began.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Monday, November 9, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Well, it’s official – kind of.

You probably saw the celebrations that began in major cities across the country on Saturday afternoon, including Philadelphia, PA. Though there are still court cases pending, former Vice-President Joe Biden is now President-Elect Joe Biden, after Pennsylvania was called for the Biden campaign late Saturday morning.

Those court cases, initiated by the Trump campaign? They’ve been filed here in Pennsylvania, as well as Nevada, Georgia, and Michigan. Additionally, ballots in Wisconsin will likely be recounted.

Many of the lawsuits, including those filed in PA, would compel election officials to stop counts and/or allow Trump campaign officials to have a closer observation of the counting process. But these court battles likely won’t change the outcome, which means the United States must ready itself for a Biden-Harris Presidency beginning in January, and a brand new administration that can, hopefully, unite a bitterly divided nation.

Additionally, as the transition of power begins, our sector will certainly require a seat at the table for new federal stimulus discussions, CMS and HHS appointments, and other important discussions.

Here are a few more updates as we kick off our highly-anticipated PHCA Convention Week:

Join Us Tomorrow at Noon as We Kick Off UNCONVENTIONAL 2020
How could we begin with anything else?

Tomorrow at noon, join PHCA and your colleagues LIVE across the state as we officially kick off UNCONVENTIONAL – the PHCA Convention and Trade Show – with a look back at the past nine months, and a look forward to the future of long-term care in Pennsylvania.

AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson will join us to discuss what the pandemic has meant for long-term care nationwide, and what our sector can expect in Washington, D.C. in the coming months –and beyond.

Can’t join us live at noon? This session – along with 40+ other educational sessions for skilled nursing and assisted living/personal care providers – will be on-demand starting tomorrow at 3:30 p.m.!

So, we’ve got two questions for you: Are you ready?

And more importantly: are you registered?

CDC Releases New Recommendations Before the Holiday Season, Additional Guidance from CMS Likely Coming Soon
Late last week, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reported that CMS officials are looking to clarify travel and visitation questions related to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays, along with additional pertinent COVID-19 topics.

Evan Shulman, the deputy director of the Division of Nursing Homes for CMS, indicated that COVID-19 restrictions will not be “softened” during the holidays.

Given the known link between community spread of COVID-19 and rising cases in nursing homes, Shulman indicated that CMS is considering providing more guidance regarding the holidays, going as far as to say “it is not the time for getting together.”

In lieu of formal guidance from CMS, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released some broad recommendations around the holidays and considerations for in-person gatherings.

If you have any questions about which considerations you should, well, consider, please reach out to Gail Weidman, Kevin Cysyk or Chris Fisher on our team. We’re happy to answer any questions and to help you navigate these challenging times.

Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigations Shifts to New Investigative Focus in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic
Thanks to PHCA friends Post & Schell for their timely alert regarding COVID-19-related investigations that might come from the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) and its investigative arm, the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigations (BEI).

For those who may be unaware, BPOA is the oversight and regulatory licensing authority for, among others, physicians, nurses, nursing home administrators, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, therapists, and social workers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, most BEI investigative activities came to a halt. Since the easing of some COVID-19 work restrictions, BEI has prioritized its investigations of complaints to those related to COVID-19 issues.

You can read more here.

OHSA Issues Guidance, Resources on Most Frequently Cited Standards During COVID Inspections
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance and an accompanying one-pager to help employers understand which standards are most frequently cited during coronavirus-related inspections.

The one-pager and guidance provide available resources that address the most frequently cited standards, including respiratory protection, recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses, personal protective equipment, and the general duty clause.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today reported 3,402 new cases, in addition to 2,909 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 6,311 additional positive cases of COVID-19. This brings the statewide total to 234,296.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Friday, November 6, 2020 – 5:45 p.m.

What a (long) week it has been!

While there is still no official news on the Presidential election results, it does certainly appear as though former Vice President Joe Biden has pulled ahead in four key swing states, including Pennsylvania, as ballots continue to be counted.

The election has almost completely enveloped the news cycle; however, one of the most important stories you may have missed today comes from Harrisburg and the latest report on COVID-19 cases. More on that at the bottom of our update.

Here are a few more updates as we wrap up this week:

Reminder: Update on Act 24 Payment Reporting Requirements for SNF Providers
On Tuesday, we shared with you that the Department of Human Services (DHS) had advised us that the Act 24 Payment interim reporting requirement would either be delayed or eliminated for skilled nursing facilities.

Yesterday, DHS announced it would delay the interim reporting requirement from today to Monday, November 30. In addition, the department will be hosting a webinar for all SNF providers on Monday, November 16 to answer questions related to the reporting templates.

As a reminder, DHS has provided three provider-specific templates for reporting:

In addition, SNF administrators should expect to receive an email with instructions on accessing the web-portal no later than next week.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help!

AHCA/NCAL Quality Awards Intent to Apply Deadline: Next Thursday, November 12
Just a reminder: the Quality Award Intent to Apply deadline is next Thursday, November 12 at 8 p.m. Be sure to take a look at the application and resources section on the Quality Award website – updated requirements have been added for reference.

And don’t forget, Chris Fisher and Pete Tartline on our PHCA staff are available to review your application and answer any questions you may have.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today confirmed 3,384 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 223,950.

For two days in a row, the department has reported the largest single daily increase of cases since the pandemic began. While it may be premature, the words ‘statewide shutdown’ have been whispered here in Harrisburg quite a bit over the last few hours.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Thursday, November 5, 2020 – 5:45 p.m.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, final results for this year’s general election are, well, still too close to call. As of this email, ballots are still being counted in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and, of course, here in Pennsylvania.

Be sure to join AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson tomorrow afternoon (details are below) to get the most up-to-date information on all things election 2020 across the country.

In the meantime, we have a few important updates for you today:

Update on Act 24 Payment Reporting Requirements for SNF Providers
On Tuesday, we shared with you that the Department of Human Services (DHS) had advised us that the Act 24 Payment interim reporting requirement would either be delayed or eliminated for skilled nursing facilities.

Earlier today, DHS announced it would delay the interim reporting requirement from this Friday, November 6 to Monday, November 30. In addition, the department will be hosting a webinar for all SNF providers on Monday, November 16 to answer questions related to the reporting templates.

As a reminder, DHS has provided three provider-specific templates for reporting:

In addition, SNF administrators should expect to receive an email with instructions on accessing the web-portal no later than next week.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help!

Tomorrow: Final Day to Register for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program
As a reminder, tomorrow marks the deadline for long-term care facilities to register for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.

Nursing homes should register via NHSN. Assisted living communities and other congregate settings should sign up through this online portal.

A list of the facilities that have signed up was sent to states earlier this week. We understand from the CDC that a few facilities were inadvertently left off that list. Providers are encouraged to verify their sign-up selections accordingly:

Any questions can be sent to eocevent494@cdc.gov.

AHCA/NCAL to Share Post-Election Analysis Tomorrow Afternoon
Tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m., AHCA/NCAL CEO Mark Parkinson will provide an analysis on the impact of the election results on the long-term care sector. All members are invited to participate, and registration is limited.

To register, log-in using your existing AHCA/NCAL username and register by clicking the green register button at the top of the page.

If you need additional assistance, please reach out to AHCA/NCAL directly at educate@ahca.org.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today confirmed 2,900 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 220,556.

Today’s total case count is the largest daily increase of cases since the pandemic began. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 – 6 p.m.

In yesterday’s Election Edition of the PHCA Daily Update, we told you the collective eyes of the United States would be focused squarely on Pennsylvania.

Sometimes, we get it right.

What we didn’t anticipate was how long a final vote calculation could, potentially, last throughout the country. As we speak, lawsuits are being filed, and vote counts are being disputed.

Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin…still too close to call.

Unfortunately, it looks to be a long time until we learn who will actually be elected President of the United States.

In the meantime, we have a few important updates for you today:

Project ECHO Hubs Announced In Pennsylvania
In mid-October, we shared information with you regarding the AHRQ ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network – one of CMS’ initiatives to provide free training and mentorship to nursing homes across the country.

This week, we learned that three of these Project ECHO hubs have been identified in Pennsylvania: Medical Associates of Erie (LECOM Health), Penn State College of Medicine, and WellSpan Health.

All training centers are looking to launch by mid-November for the 16-week training and mentoring program. Centers can find more information on this free program and register here.

AHCA/NCAL to Share Post-Election Analysis This Friday
​This Friday, November 6 at 2 p.m., AHCA/NCAL CEO Mark Parkinson will provide an analysis of the impact of the recent election results on the long-term care sector. All members are invited to participate, and registration is limited.

To register, log-in using your existing AHCA/NCAL username and register by clicking the green register button at the top of the page.

If you need additional assistance, please reach out to AHCA/NCAL directly at educate@ahca.org.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today confirmed 2,795 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 217,666.

Today’s total case count marks the 30th consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – 5:59 p.m.

We’ve got a few very important updates to share with you today, especially as it relates to Act 24 (or, the CARES Act) payment reporting requirements:

Update on Act 24 Payment Reporting Requirements
Last week, we shared long-awaited reporting tools from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) so that you could document expenditures and costs related to federal CARES Act funding.

You may recall that DHS had requested all providers submit an interim report – due this Friday, November 6 – using a web-based portal and login information that was to be provided to you. That login information, however, was never sent.

After continued discussions with OLTL over the past several days, we’re happy to report that DHS has eliminated the interim reporting requirement for all AL/PC providers.

We continue to work with DHS for nursing facility-specific guidance; however, we have been advised the interim reporting requirement will either be delayed or eliminated for skilled nursing facilities as well.

We will share an update with you as soon as we receive this official notification from DHS. Thanks to the PHCA team for their work on this effort, and thanks to you – our members – for sounding the alarm when the requirements were first released.

Eyes of the Nation on Pennsylvania as Polls Close and 2020 Election Ends
It’s nice to be noticed, isn’t it?

The collective eyes of the United States are focused squarely on Pennsylvania tonight, as the Commonwealth could very well decide the election for either President Trump or former Vice-President Joe Biden.

In addition, Pennsylvania is home to competitive Congressional races, as well as state House and Senate races that will surely produce surprises.

Though some counties throughout the state are waiting to count mail-in ballots until tomorrow, you can follow along with real-time results here.

And be sure to check back tomorrow, where we’ll provide a detailed summary…or at least all the information that’s available.

DOH Announces Fourth Distribution of Antigen Test Kit Shipments
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its fourth distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Elk, Lawrence, Mifflin and Philadelphia counties.

Additionally, during the upcoming fifth distribution of test kit shipments, the department will send an additional allotment of tests to the Philadelphia Department of Health.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet, as well as a new order from the Secretary of Health regarding new requirements for reporting antigen test results.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday afternoon, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today confirmed 2,875 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 815 new cases as compared to yesterday.

This is the largest daily increase of newly confirmed cases, and it brings the new statewide total to 214,871.

The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data available here.

 

Monday, November 2, 2020 – 5:45 p.m.

We’ve got a few important updates to share with you to kick off the month of November – a month that’s sure to be a little ‘unconventional’, especially beginning next Tuesday:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

ICYMI: PHCA, LeadingAge PA Send Joint Letter to Gov. Wolf and General Assembly Urging RRHCP Reform to Support Long-Term Care Providers
Late last week, PHCA – in conjunction with LeadingAge PA – sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly, urging both the administration and the legislature to reform the state’s Regional Response Healthcare Collaborative Program (RRHCP) to better support skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We want to thank those who contributed to our RRHCP survey last week – more than 100 of our members provided their opinions on the support they received. As we have analyzed your responses, it has become clear that significant concerns and questions exist.

Throughout the past few days, we have engaged in discussions with the Wolf Administration, as well as members of the General Assembly, on how to move forward.

In fact, we will be testifying at a legislative hearing next Thursday to share our concerns and recommendations. This comes as a direct result from your advocacy.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

One Week to Go! UNCONVENTIONAL Kicks Off Next Tuesday
We’re just one week away from UNCONVENTIONAL 2020 – our totally new, totally unconventional experience: a two-week live and on-demand hybrid convention and trade show event!

We have an action-packed two weeks ahead, including three very special live sessions, 16 COVID-related sessions, 24 sessions focused on our AL/PC providers, 27 sessions for our nurses and skilled nursing staff, regional roundtables, live chats and more!

Check out phca.org/unconventional today for our full list of educational sessions, networking events, and be sure to register and claim your spot before it’s too late!

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health today confirmed 2,060 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 1,909 new cases reported yesterday, November 1, for a two-day total of 3,969 additional positive cases of COVID-19.

This brings the statewide total to 211,996.

The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data available here.

 

 

Friday, October 30, 2020 – 6:44 p.m.

We’ve got a few important updates to share with you to end the week:

PHCA, LeadingAge PA Send Joint Letter to Gov. Wolf & General Assembly, Urging RRHCP Reform to Support Long-Term Care Providers
This morning, PHCA – in conjunction with LeadingAge PA – sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly, urging both the administration and the legislature to reform the state’s Regional Response Healthcare Collaborative Program (RRHCP) to better support skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we’ve shared previously, the RRHCP was created to support you.

And while the program initially promised PPE, testing and staffing support, it has produced mixed results across the state.

We want to thank those who contributed to our RRHCP survey this week – more than 100 members provided their opinions on the support they received. As we’ve examined those results, it is clear there are consistent concerns and widespread disappointment with this program thus far.

But we also acknowledge that some of our members have been satisfied with the program.

That’s why, if it is truly the intention of the Governor and the legislature to continue the RRHCP past its December 1st deadline, we asked that the program be reformed to benefit all long-term care providers.

We are not calling for elimination; rather, we are asking for transformation. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

We’ve already had discussions with several members of the General Assembly – they want to learn more about your experiences on the front lines and ensure this program works for you.

So stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted on next steps.

DOH Releases New Guidance on Reporting Point-of-Care COVID-19 Test Results
This afternoon, the Department of Health released an updated PAHAN – PAHAN-354 – regarding reporting point-of-care (POC) test results.

As a reminder: in order to fulfill reporting requirements, long-term care facilities will need to upgrade their NHSN Secure Access Management Service (SAMS) from Level 1 to Level 3. If you have not already obtained Level 3 access, please contact NHSN@cdc.gov and include in the subject line: “Enhancing Data Security.”

Once you have been upgraded to SAMS level 3 access, NHSN will submit reported POC test result data from facilities to PA-NEDSS. This means facilities using the NHSN POC reporting module do not need to report POC test result data directly into PA-NEDSS.

Only facilities who have been upgraded to SAMS level 3 access and are currently reporting data into NHSN can stop reporting results to PA-NEDSS. Until NHSN access is granted and POC reporting begins, facilities must enter test results into PA-NEDSS.

More information, including upcoming training on the NHSN module, can be found here. Questions about the NHSN POC reporting tool can be sent to NHSN@cdc.gov. Please include in the subject line: “POC test reporting.”

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

DOH, DHS to Offer Webinar on Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program
This Monday, November 2 at 4 p.m., the Department of Health, Department of Human Services and the RRHCP programs will be offering a webinar focused on the new federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care. To register, click here.

As a reminder, the registration deadline to sign up for the vaccine distribution program has been extended to next Friday, November 6. Providers are required to sign up for this program:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

More information can be found here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,641 new cases of COVID-19. This total includes today’s one-day total of 2,416 – an increase of 214 cases as compared to yesterday – and an additional 225 cases from this week that have not yet been reported. This brings the statewide total to 205,517.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Thursday, October 29, 2020 – 6:15 p.m.

We’ve got a few important updates to share with you on this very rainy Thursday:

DOH Releases New Guidance Requiring Hospitals to Obtain COVID Test Results Before Discharging to Long-Term Care
Late last night, the Department of Health released new guidance to hospitals and health systems requiring all patients being discharged to a long-term care provider (SNF or AL/PC) to be tested for COVID-19.

Most importantly, hospitals must obtain test results prior to the patient being discharged.

That guidance is available here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Increased COVID-19 Cases in Pennsylvania Leads to Increased Cases in Long-Term Care Facilities
As we’ve shared in many of our discussions with the media over the past several months, all independent research indicates that community spread of COVID-19 equals spread in our long-term care facilities and communities.

Given the past month of 1,000+ newly confirmed cases in Pennsylvania, we took a look at weekly trends in weekly confirmed resident and confirmed staff cases in nursing homes, using the federal NHSN data.

Needless to say, we’re seeing that same correlation across the Commonwealth.

Update on Survey123 Reporting Tool
Earlier today, we were advised by the Department of Health that the Survey123 technical issue has been mitigated.

Moving forward, you should be able to edit surveys and view multiple entries once again. Ongoing issues can be reported to RA-DHSNFQuestion@pa.gov.

As always, if you need any help from our staff, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

We’re Just Two Weeks Away From UNCONVENTIONAL: PHCA’s Virtual Convention and Trade Show
It’s hard to believe, but we’re just two weeks away from UNCONVENTIONAL: the 2020 version of the PHCA Annual Convention and Trade Show!

We’ll be coming to you LIVE on November 10, and we’ll be offering CEUS and networking through November 24.

Be sure to check out our full list of educational sessions, and get registered for our event here!

Share Your RRHCP Experience & Help Us Improve the Program for LTC Providers
In mid-July, the Department of Human Services launched the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program, or RRHCP, to support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term care facilities. The program set out to improve infection prevention, enhance testing capabilities for both residents and staff, help with staffing shortages, and deliver emergency PPE.

In other words: this program was created to support you. However, after nearly four months, the RRHCP has yielded mixed results.

It is the hope of the Wolf Administration and DHS that the RRHCP program will continue past its deadline of December 1. But we must ensure the RRHCP meets its goals and delivers the assistance you need.

To help us advocate for the correct reform and improvements, please take a few moments to share the experience you’ve had with your RRHCP – and what you need moving forward.

This survey will only be available this week (October 26 – 30), so please help us as soon as you can.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,202 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 26 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 202,876.

The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data also available.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

We’ve got a few updates to share with you today, including an important federal funding announcement:

HHS Announces $333M in COVID-19 Performance Funding for Nursing Homes
This afternoon, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced they will be distributing approximately $333 million in first-round performance payments to more than 10,000 nursing homes across the country. These payments are being directed to facilities that have met certain metrics during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the $333 million, Pennsylvania providers received $7 million. Funds will be sent out next week.

As a reminder: this performance-based payment structure was created to provide value-based funding to nursing homes that keep new COVID-19 infection and mortality rates among residents lower than the communities they serve, as analyzed against CDC data.

HHS does not typically release a list of awardees; however, we’re working to better understand which Pennsylvania providers received funding in this initial distribution.

PHCA Joins Senator John Yudichak and NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program for Press Conference
Earlier today, PHCA was proud to join Senator John Yudichak, the AllOne Foundation and other partners of the NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program to discuss the support and critical PPE supplies this partnership has produced for nursing homes in northeastern PA.

The program has raised more than $1 million already, and is expected to continue.

Share Your RRHCP Experience & Help Us Improve (or Eliminate) the Program for LTC Providers
In mid-July, the Department of Human Services launched the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program, or RRHCP, to support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term care facilities. The program set out to improve infection prevention, enhance testing capabilities for both residents and staff, help with staffing shortages, and deliver emergency PPE.

In other words: this program was created to support you. However, after nearly four months, the RRHCP has yielded mixed results.

It is the hope of the Wolf Administration and DHS that the RRHCP program will continue past its deadline of December 1. But we must ensure the RRHCP meets its goals and delivers the assistance you need.

To help us advocate for the correct reform and improvements, please take a few moments to share the experience you’ve had with your RRHCP – and what you need moving forward.

This survey will only be available this week (October 26 – 30), so please help us as soon as you can.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,228 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 523 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 200,674.

The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data also available.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 – 7:14 p.m.

We have a number of important updates for you today, including a recap of a very exciting advocacy opportunity we had earlier today with CMS Administrator Seema Verma:

PHCA Participates in Virtual Roundtable with CMS Administrator Seema Verma
This afternoon, PHCA was well represented at a virtual roundtable with CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Once again, we were the voice of long-term care in PA.

We shared some of the continued challenges facing providers, as well as a few important solutions to help address those challenges, including staffing, visitation, rapid testing, and the eventual vaccine program.

Thanks to PHCA Board members Denise Curry (HCR ManorCare), Steve Tack (Quality Life Services), Aaron Praetzel (HCF Management), and Michael Wylie (Genesis Healthcare) for representing our association so well during today’s roundtable.

DHS, OLTL Releases Act 24 Payment Reporting Form
This afternoon, the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) released its long-awaited reporting tool to document expenditures and costs related to federal CARES Act funding. As a reminder: this funding must be used to cover necessary COVID-19 related costs incurred between March 1, 2020, and November 30, 2020, that have not otherwise been reimbursed by federal, state, or other sources of relief funding.

DHS has provided four provider-specific templates for reporting:

DHS is requesting the following two reports from providers:

  • Interim report – This preliminary report identifies the total COVID-19 related costs each provider projects to incur by November 30, 2020. This interim report is due next Friday, November 6. DHS recommends using this cost report. Providers must report the projected costs via a web-based portal.
  • Final cost report – Providers are required to complete a final cost report and upload it through the web-based portal no later than December 21, 2020. Providers must keep all documentation related to costs reported in the final cost report for five years.

Providers will receive information on how to access the web-based reporting portal through a separate email – be sure to keep an eye out for that communication.

If you have any questions about OLTL Act 24 expense reporting, please email act24reporting@pa.gov. We’re also happy to answer any questions you might have.

Deadline EXTENDED for Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Registration
This afternoon, the registration deadline for the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program was officially EXTENDED to next Friday, November 6. As a reminder, facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

More information can be found here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

DOH Announces Third Distribution of Antigen Test Kit Shipments
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its third distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Blair, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Tioga, Venango, and Wyoming counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as a new order from the Secretary of Health re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Share Your RRHCP Experience & Help Us Improve (or Eliminate) the Program for LTC Providers
In mid-July, the Department of Human Services launched the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program, or RRHCP, to support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term care facilities. The program set out to improve infection prevention, enhance testing capabilities for both residents and staff, help with staffing shortages, and deliver emergency PPE.

In other words: this program was created to support you. However, after nearly four months, the RRHCP has yielded mixed results.

It is the hope of the Wolf Administration and DHS that the RRHCP program will continue past its deadline of December 1. But we must ensure the RRHCP meets its goals and delivers the assistance you need.

To help us advocate for the correct reform and improvements, please take a few moments to share the experience you’ve had with your RRHCP – and what you need moving forward.

This survey will only be available this week (October 26 – 30), so please help us as soon as you can.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

PHCA to Host Training Webinar with Quidel to Support Point-of-Care Testing
This Wednesday, October 28 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host a training webinar with Quidel for a comprehensive review of the Sofia 2 testing system, quality control processes, the testing procedure, maintenance, and data management.

See below to sign up for this important opportunity.

How to Use the Quidel Sofia 2 Training
1 CEU for SNF, AL, PC
To register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 2,751 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 1,085 cases as compared to yesterday and the highest daily total ever reported. This brings the statewide total to 198,446.

The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data also available.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

 

Monday, October 26, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We have a number of important updates to kick off the new week, including a special request regarding the RRHCP:

Share Your RRHCP Experience & Help Us Improve (or Eliminate) the Program for LTC Providers
In mid-July, the Department of Human Services launched the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program, or RRHCP, to support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term care facilities. The program set out to improve infection prevention, enhance testing capabilities for both residents and staff, help with staffing shortages, and deliver emergency PPE.

In other words: this program was created to support you. However, after nearly four months, the RRHCP has yielded mixed results.

It is the hope of the Wolf Administration and DHS that the RRHCP program will continue past its deadline of December 1. But we must ensure the RRHCP meets its goals and delivers the assistance you need.

To help us advocate for the correct reform and improvements, please take a few moments to share the experience you’ve had with your RRHCP – and what you need moving forward.

This survey will only be available this week (October 26 – 30), so please help us as soon as you can.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Releases New PAHAN to Address Contract Tracing Policies, Procedures
This afternoon, the Department of Health released a new PAHAN – PAHAN-533 – providing recommendations and considerations for determining close contacts to people with COVID-19.

DOH recommends using 15 consecutive minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less as an operational definition for “close contact.” However, there are circumstances when someone should be considered a close contact of a case after being within 6 feet for fewer than 15 consecutive minutes.

Additional information about insurance coverage and COVID-19 testing can be found here. As a reminder: test results should be reported to DOH within 24 hours of test completion.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our team.

DHS Releases New Guidance, FAQ and Resources for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, DHS released updated guidance related to outings for medical appointments and non-medical reasons, updated guidance on visitation and new FAQs and resources for our AL/PC providers.

All updates and revisions to the guidance have been made in red.

If you have any questions, concerns, or need clarification, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk. We’ll be compiling all of these questions to share with BHSL to ensure we get responses for you.

PHCA to Host Training Webinar with Quidel to Support Point-of-Care Testing
This Wednesday, October 28 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host a training webinar with Quidel for a comprehensive review of the Sofia 2 testing system, quality control processes, the testing procedure, maintenance, and data management.

See below to sign up for this important opportunity.

How to Use the Quidel Sofia 2 Training
1 CEU for SNF, AL, PC
To register, click here.

Reminder: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Registration
As a reminder: the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities before the general population.

Facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program. The registration process is officially open for just two weeks. See below to learn more:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

More information can be found here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 1,407 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 1,666 new cases reported yesterday, for a two-day total of 3,073 additional positive cases of COVID-19This brings the statewide total to 195,695.

During a press conference this morning, Dr. Levine reported Pennsylvania has now experienced 21 days of 1,000+ new daily cases. The most accurate daily data is available here, with archived data also available.

 

Friday, October 23, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We have a number of important updates to share with you today as we wrap up the week:

New CMS Reporting Mandate
Late Wednesday, CMS mandated that all Point of Care (POC) antigen test results conducted in a facility must be reported to NHSN. The June 4th HHS memo on laboratory testing has now been updated to state:

“#4 CMS-certified long term care facilities shall submit point-of-care COVID-19 testing data, including antigen testing data, to CDC’s NHSN”. 

This new requirement goes into effect immediately. However, CMS has verbally indicated that they will exercise enforcement discretion until November 20th.

This new reporting module in NHSN requires SAMS Level-3 access. NOTE: your facility may have received an email from us earlier today if it was indicated you did not have Level-3 access yet.

We reached out to the Department of Health regarding this new reporting requirement today, and we’ve been advised that the department is reviewing this new rule and determining how to move forward with their reporting requirements. As soon as we receive their recommendations, we’ll share those with you.

More information on this new reporting module is available here. It’s also our understanding the CDC will be holding training webinars in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our team.

DOH Releases New Reporting Support Tool
Late this afternoon, the Department of Health released a new SNF COVID-19 Reporting Dashboard to provide additional context to help you with capacity and testing reporting requirements. This tool was designed for your computer desktop, and to be replaced as new guidance or new reporting data is required.

A few things to note:

  • There are links and embedded documents throughout the tool. The department will review these documents monthly and resend an updated file if changes are significant.
  • The guidance included with this tool is solely direction on reporting. Clinical or operational guidance will not be included as part of this file.

As a reminder, if you have questions or need assistance with the tool or SNF reporting in general, please email RA-DHSNFQuestion@pa.gov.

New CHC-MCO Contract Checklist Resource Now Available
The PHCA team has worked with Cindy Haines, principal with Post & Schell, to develop a new contract checklist to provide a list of suggestions to consider when negotiating your new contracts with the CHC MCOs. We hope this tool will be useful, especially to our southwest PA providers.

If you have any questions or if there are other resources that we can develop to assist your organizations, please let us know.

PHCA to Host Training Webinar with Quidel to Support Point-of-Care Testing
Next Wednesday, October 28 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host a training webinar with Quidel for a comprehensive review of the Sofia 2 testing system, quality control processes, the testing procedure, maintenance, and data management.

See below to sign up for this important opportunity.

How to Use the Quidel Sofia 2 Training
1 CEU for SNF, AL, PC
To register, click here.

Reminder: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Registration
As a reminder: the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities before the general population.

Facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program. The registration process is officially open for just two weeks. See below to learn more:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

More information can be found here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a total of 2,219 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 190,579.

This one-day total is not the result of a faulty data file. It is the largest one-day total that has been reported so far. In addition, the department will no longer be reporting counties with notable increases of 100+ cases.

 

Thursday, October 22, 2020 – 5:59 p.m.

HHS Releases Updated Reporting Requirements to the Provider Relief Fund
Just a few minutes ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced changes to the reporting requirements and expanded the types of providers who could apply for Provider Relief Funds. A few key takeaways:

  • HHS is returning to its previous definition of ‘lost revenue’, a decrease from 2019 revenue, rather than using the September 19 version which would have capped funds to a facility’s 2019 net revenue.
  • HHS has created new flexibility around reporting at the parent and subsidiary level.
  • HHS now is allowing private pay ALs to apply for Phase 3 awards.

As a reminder, the application portal for Phase III funding is open until Friday, November 6.

PHCA to Host Training Webinar with Quidel to Support Point-of-Care Testing
Next Wednesday, October 28 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host a training webinar with Quidel for a comprehensive review of the Sofia 2 testing system, quality control processes, the testing procedure, maintenance, and data management.

See below to sign up for this important opportunity.

How to Use the Quidel Sofia 2 Training
1 CEU for SNF, AL, PC
To register, click here.

DOH Directs LTC Providers to Disregard COVID Vaccine-Related Surveys from Healthcare Coalitions
A survey was recently distributed by a healthcare coalition to long-term care providers regarding COVID-19 vaccine storage and administration capability. Given the registration process to participate in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, we reached out to the Department of Health to get clarification on this survey.

We have now been advised by the department that facilities should not complete this new survey, as it is specific to acute care providers.

If you have any questions, let us know.

Reminder: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Registration
Late last week, we shared some fantastic news: the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities before the general population.

As we noted then, facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program. The registration process is officially open for just two weeks. See below to learn more:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

Some additional details: while the program partnership is with CVS and Walgreens, providers may choose among four options for how they wish to receive and administer this vaccine when it becomes available – work with CVS, work with Walgreens, work with existing pharmacy partners or work with an alternative partner (hospital, local/state health department).

If you choose to work with an existing pharmacy or with an alternative partner, we strongly recommend you first ask to see a signed copy of that entity’s provider agreement with the state and CDC; otherwise, you run the risk of not being included in early rounds of vaccine delivery and distribution, which could result in delays in your facility obtaining the vaccine.

More information can be found here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a total of 2,063 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 188,360.

The reason for this high case total? The Department is reporting a faulty data file that was sent to their system earlier this week, which prevented some of the lab results from being properly reported. Therefore, some of the cases being reported today should have been counted as part of the positive test results reported yesterday.

The department is reporting notable increases in Allegheny, Luzerne, Philadelphia, and Westmoreland counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

We have a number of important updates to share with you today, including another day of 1,400+ newly reported cases of COVID-19:

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation Reaches Second Consideration in House
A few weeks ago, Senate Bill 1268, which would allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to become CNAs (as long as they meet certain training requirements), passed the state Senate unanimously, 50-0. On Monday, the legislation was unanimously approved and voted out of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

Earlier today, the bill reached Second Consideration on the House floor with no amendments, meaning no changes were made to the underlying language.

The House of Representatives will return to Harrisburg after the election, and SB 1268 needs just one final floor vote before it is sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

To put it simply: we are one step closer to retaining our temporary nurse aides after the disaster declaration ends. We’ll keep you updated on this important initiative.

DOH Releases Updated FAQs re: COVID-19 and Treatment Drugs
Earlier today, DOH released an updated FAQ related to the use of convalescent plasma, Regeneron and Remdesivir to treat COVID-19. There have been substantive changes to the previous FAQs, which were first released on July 24 – these revisions are outlined in red in the document.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Two Training Opportunities Available for New NHSN Point-of-Care Test Result Reporting Requirements
The CDC will be hosting webinars tomorrow and Friday to review the new NHSN lab data reporting pathway for long-term care facilities reporting point-of-care testing results. Webinars are scheduled for:

Thursday, October 22 at 11 a.m. 
To register, click here.

Friday, October 23 at 2 p.m.
To register click here.

These webinars will offer the same content, so you only need to make plans to attend one. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our team.

Reminder: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program Registration and AHCA/NCAL Office Hours
Late last week, we shared some fantastic news: the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities before the general population.

As we noted then, facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program. The registration process is officially open for just two weeks. See below to learn more:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

As registration for the new program continues, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is hosting a series of upcoming ‘office hours’ throughout the next two weeks. AHCA/NCAL has scheduled the following sessions:

  • Friday, October 23 at 3 p.m.
  • Monday, October 26 at 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 28 at 3 p.m.

We encourage you to attend one of these upcoming sessions and register as soon as possible. To register, click here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

PHCA to Host Upcoming Webinar on Dementia Care During COVID-19
Tomorrow at 2 p.m., PHCA will host the Alzheimer’s Association for a new webinar on dementia care practice recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with additional resources to help prepare staff and families for continued response efforts.

Providing Quality Dementia Care During COVID: Resources and Support from the Alzheimer’s Association
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To learn more or to register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a total of 1,425 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 132 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 186,297.

The department is reporting notable increases in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – 5:44 p.m.

We have a number of important updates to share with you today, including a day of 1,500+ newly reported cases of COVID-19:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Announces Second Distribution of Antigen Test Kit Shipments
Earlier today, the Department of Health announced its second distribution of COVID-19 antigen test kits to CLIA-certified providers in Berks, Huntingdon, Union, and Westmoreland counties.

As a reminder: the department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as a new order from the Secretary of Health re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results. All entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Two Training Opportunities Available for New NHSN Point-of-Care Test Result Reporting Requirements
The CDC will be hosting webinars this Thursday and Friday to review the new NHSN lab data reporting pathway for long-term care facilities reporting results of point-of-care testing. Webinars are scheduled for:

Thursday, October 22 at 11 a.m. 
To register, click here.

Friday, October 23 at 2 p.m.
To register click here.

These webinars will offer the same content, so you only need to make plans to attend one. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our team.

BD Veritor Adds New Antigen Testing Training Resourses
During last week’s PHCA quality and regulatory committee call, there were some issues discussed surrounding the training system for the BD Veritor antigen testing system.

Since then, BD has released new training resources on batch testing and reporting. If you are using this system for point-of-care COVID-19 testing, we encourage you to review these new resources:

  • ​Batch testing – New video tutorial on how to batch test is available on the training website
  • Reporting – New reporting updates cover the different options for connectivity on Veritor on the reporting website

Please reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our staff if you have any additional questions.

DOH Provides Update on Survey123 Reporting Tool
As we shared last Friday, there continue to be technical issues with the Survey123 reporting tool. We’ve been advised that the ability to edit previous surveys is currently unavailable; however, providers are still able to submit new surveys. Until this technical issue is resolved, providers should submit new surveys each day.

In addition, the backlog of questions submitted to the SNFQuestion inbox should be addressed and fixed later today.

Reminder: AHCA/NCAL to Host ‘Office Hour’ Series re: Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program
As registration for the new Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program continues, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is hosting a series of upcoming ‘office hours’ throughout the next two weeks. AHCA/NCAL has scheduled the following sessions:

  • Wednesday, October 21 at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, October 23 at 3 p.m.
  • Monday, October 26 at 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 28 at 3 p.m.

We encourage you to attend one of these upcoming sessions and register as soon as possible. To register, click here.

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

PHCA to Host Upcoming Webinar on Dementia Care During COVID-19
This Thursday, October 22 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host the Alzheimer’s Association for a new webinar on dementia care practice recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with additional resources to help prepare staff and families for continued response efforts.

Providing Quality Dementia Care During COVID: Resources and Support from the Alzheimer’s Association
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To learn more or to register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a total of 1,557 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 454 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 184,872.

The department is reporting a notable increase in Allegheny, Delaware, and Philadelphia counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Monday, October 19, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

Late last week, we shared some fantastic news: the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities before the general population.

As we noted then, facilities and providers are required to sign up for this program. The registration process began today and will remain open for just two weeks. See below to learn more:

  • Skilled nursing facilities must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

We understand there are a number of questions surrounding this new program and how it will be implemented. That’s why AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is hosting a series of upcoming ‘office hours’ throughout the next two weeks. AHCA/NCAL has scheduled the following sessions:

  • Wednesday, October 21 at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, October 23 at 3 p.m.
  • Monday, October 26 at 3 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 28 at 3 p.m.

We encourage you to attend one of these upcoming sessions and register as soon as possible. To register, click here.

For additional information, please review these resources:

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

We have a few additional updates, including two more days of 1,000+ newly reported COVID cases, to kick off the week:

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation Unanimously Voted from State House Aging Committee, Now Heads to House Floor
A few weeks ago, Senate Bill 1268, which would allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to become CNAs (as long as they meet certain training requirements), passed the state Senate unanimously, 50-0. And just this morning, the legislation was unanimously approved and voted out of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee!

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration, and we continue to work with House leaders to ensure swift passage.

This is fantastic news, and we are one step closer to retaining our temporary nurse aides after the disaster declarations end. We’ll keep you updated as the situation progresses.

PHCA to Host Upcoming Webinar on Dementia Care During COVID-19
This Thursday, October 22 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host the Alzheimer’s Association for a new webinar on dementia care practice recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with additional resources to help prepare staff and families for continued response efforts.

Providing Quality Dementia Care During COVID: Resources and Support from the Alzheimer’s Association
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To learn more or to register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 1,103 new cases of COVID-19 today and 1,269 new cases yesterday for a two-day total of 2,372 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 183,315.

The department is reporting a notable increase today in Allegheny County.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Friday, October 16, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

We have some fantastic news: earlier today, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a partnership with CVS Health and Walgreens Pharmacy to distribute the eventual COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities, among others. In short, long-term care will be the priority for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Facilities are going to be required to sign up for this program, and that will begin this Monday, October 19th. The registration process will remain open for just two weeks. See below to learn more about signing up:

  • Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) must opt-in to the program through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). An “alert” will be incorporated into the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 module to guide users to the form.
  • Assisted living and personal care communities (AL/PC) will make their selection via an online REDcap sign-up form.

It’s important to note that indicating interest in participating in this program is non-binding. Providers may change their selection or opt-in or out via email after the online survey closes.

Once the sign-up period has closed, no changes can be made via the online form, and the facility must coordinate directly with the selected pharmacy provider to change any requested vaccination supplies and services.

The CDC expects the program services to continue on-site at participating facilities for approximately two months. After the initial phase of vaccinations, each facility can choose to continue working with CVS or Walgreens or, you may work with a pharmacy provider of your choice.

Check out these resources for additional information:

For questions about the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, please contact eocevent494@cdc.gov. And we’re certainly happy to answer any questions as well!

We have a few additional updates to wrap up the week:

Survey123 Experiencing Technical Issues
This morning, the Department of Health announced Survey 123 is, once again, experiencing technical issues. We were advised some members may not be able to submit the required reports. As of today’s provider call at 1 p.m., investigation and mitigation efforts were still underway.

We’ll update you as soon as we know more.

PHCA to Host Upcoming Webinar on Dementia Care During COVID-19
This Thursday, October 22 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host the Alzheimer’s Association for a new webinar on dementia care practice recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with additional resources to help prepare staff and families for continued response efforts.

Click below to learn more, and to register for this important webinar:

Providing Quality Dementia Care During COVID: Resources and Support from the Alzheimer’s Association
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To learn more or to register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,566 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 32 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases to 179,086.

The department continues to report notable daily increases in Allegheny, Philadelphia and Westmoreland counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Thursday, October 15, 2020 – 5:59 p.m.

Updates from Today’s DOH Provider Call
During today’s provider call, the Department of Health referenced the prioritization of survey visits as outlined in guidance re: State and CMS Survey Activity Guidance for Health Care Facilities during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Department officials noted it will take time to get caught up on these surveys.

For providers having issues with insurance renewals and licensure expiration dates (approaching the 90-day extension), DOH has provided documentation to present to insurance companies if questions arise.

If you have any issues with insurance providers who will not accept this communication, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff so we can communicate those concerns to the department. DOH indicated a willingness to address these issues on a case-by-case basis, as necessary.

In addition, DOH also provided the presentation used during the skilled nursing facility reporting requirements webinar for reference. To download those slides, click here.

Additional Follow-Ups from Today’s Nursing Facility Committee Meeting
This afternoon, we shared additional follow-ups from today’s committee call re: concerns surrounding testing for medical transport partners and additional information on CMP grant funding to support visitation aides. We want to re-share that information here:

Concerns around testing for medical transport partners – The Department of Health is of the opinion that medical transport partners that routinely transport residents and come in contact with staff would fall under the definition of “facility staff” as outlined in QSO-20-38-NH. DOH has reached out to CMS for clarification.

In the interim, if there are issues re: testing and medical transport partners, DOH recommends the facility obtain a copy of the transport vendor’s screening protocols to keep it on file. Facilities should also screen the medical transport staff based on their screening protocols before allowing entry to the building.

As soon as DOH receives clarification from CMS, we will share that information with the membership.

CMP grant funding to support visitation aides – We have been advised that CMP grant applications for visitation aides will be processed through the PROMISe system and will be posted on Remittance advice (RA) as they are received.

The Department has noted that before they issue the approval notice for a grant application they will ensure that the payment is being processed. As a result, there is the possibility that the payment will be posted on the RA before the approval notice is received by the facility. The payment will be posted on the RA with reason code 0367-NF-Aid.

Members are encouraged to submit their CMP grant applications as soon as possible so the payments are distributed timely.  As a reminder, the deadline to submit an application is December 31, 2020.

PHCA Hosts Virtual Press Conference on Voting Accommodations for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities
Earlier today, PHCA hosted a virtual press conference – the fifth in our ‘From the Front Lines’ series of biweekly media updates – to share insights from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes.

Today’s press conference focused on the changes to Pennsylvania’s voting processes this year — including some stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic — and steps our members are taking to support their residents’ participation in the voting process.

You can watch today’s press conference here.

We continue to see a great response from media outlets from across the state – including national trade publications.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
This week, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,598 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 322 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases to 177,520.

The department is reporting notable increases in Allegheny, Philadelphia and Westmoreland counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

This morning, the Department of Health hosted a special press conference, in which DOH Secretary Levine indicated a “fall resurgence” of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Today marks day nine of more than 1,000 confirmed cases across the commonwealth.

We have several updates to share with you today:

DOH Announces Distribution of First Antigen Test Kit Shipment
During that press conference, the Department of Health also announced the distribution plan for the first COVID-19 antigen test kit shipment provided by the federal government.

These test kits will be prioritized to CLIA-certified providers – including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living/personal care communities – in Bradford, Centre, Lebanon, Montour, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Snyder counties as a result of high positivity rates.

The department has released PA-HAN-531 and PA-HAN-532 to outline how to use these tests and report their results. In addition, the department has developed this fact sheet as well as a new order from the Secretary of Health re: new requirements for reporting antigen test results.

As a reminder: all entities conducting testing are required by law to report positive, inconclusive/indeterminate, and negative results to PA-NEDSS within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please be sure to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

Federal COVID-19 Relief Talks Resume
In Washington, D.C., the White House and members of Congress have resumed negotiations on another COVID-19 relief bill which would include additional support for long-term care providers.

The White House has proposed a $1.6 trillion bundle, while House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion proposal earlier this month. AHCA – our national organization – has previously pushed for an additional $100 billion to the Provider Relief Fund with a “substantial portion” dedicated to long-term care.

We’ll keep you posted as these discussions continue.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday afternoon, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,276 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 66 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases to 175,922.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

There are a few important updates to share with you today, as well as another day of 1,300+ confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania. Here we go:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
This afternoon, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

CMP Grant Funding Available to Help Facilitate In-Person Visitation Needs
In an effort to ensure providers have access to funding to purchase supplies necessary to help facilitate in-person visitation between residents and their loved ones as outlined in CMS QSO-20-39-NHproviders are now able to apply for CMP grant funding to purchase tents and/or clear dividers to help ensure appropriate social distancing and infection control protocols.

CMS has developed this FAQ to ensure your facility’s request meets the requirements.

When submitting your application, be sure to include:

  • COVID-19 in-person visitation application
  • three quotes for the allowable aides and a statement justifying why the facility chose their selected vendor
  • Preliminary in-person visitation general invoice – Please make sure that the description and costs of the visitation aides on the invoice and the CMS application match.
  • include each facility’s PA Medicaid Provider Number (MPI) and/or if each facility is Medicare Certified Only in the body of the email with the application request

Please note: any requests that exceed the allowable maximum of $3,000 per facility will be considered a cost to the facility.

All documents must be submitted to RA-PWCMPGRANTS@pa.gov no later than Thursday, December 31, 2020.

If you have any questions about this grant program or the application process, please contact the Office of Long Term-Living at 717-772-2570 or email RA-PWCMPGRANTS@pa.gov.

DOH Releases New Guidance for SNFs to Align with CMS Visitation Guidance
Yesterday, the Department of Health posted new guidance to its Message Board, which replaced the initial guidance issued on September 3 in its entirety.

This new guidance brings our state guidance into alignment with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) QSOs released late last month.

Please note: the three-step process for lifting restrictions is no longer required, and facilities are no longer required to have implementation plans for lifting those restrictions.

DOH has stated that providers should continue to follow all relevant CMS guidance that is available now (and in the future). If there is a conflict between guidance released by the Department of Health and CMS guidance, providers are urged to follow the CMS guidance.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman and Chris Fisher on our staff so that we can follow up with the department to get additional clarification.

PHCA to Host Upcoming Webinar on Dementia Care During COVID-19
Next Thursday, October 22 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host the Alzheimer’s Association for a new webinar on dementia care practice recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic, with additional resources to help prepare staff and families for continued response efforts.

Click below to learn more, and to register for this important webinar:

Providing Quality Dementia Care During COVID: Resources and Support from the Alzheimer’s Association
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To learn more or to register, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,342 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 254 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total of positive COVID-19 cases to 174,646.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Monday, October 12, 2020 – 5:21 p.m.

We’ve got a few important updates and reminders to share with you today, as well as another report of a high positive COVID-19 case count. Read below to learn more:

REMINDER: CMS Releases Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Guidance
Last week, CMS released updated Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment guidance based upon the recently enacted Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act.

The CMS guidance outlines the following repayment schedule, which is great news for our providers:

  • Repayment does not begin for one year starting from the date the accelerated or advance payment was issued (e.g., the date a SNF received its payment);
  • Beginning at one year from the date the payment was issued and continuing for 11 months, Medicare payments owed to providers and suppliers will be recouped at a rate of 25 percent;
  • After the 11 months end, Medicare payments owed to providers and suppliers will be recouped at a rate of 50 percent for another six months; and
  • After the six months end, a letter for any remaining balance of the accelerated or advance payment(s) will be issued.

For more information, click here for the CMS Factsheet and here for the FAQ document.

For questions related to the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, contact your designated MAC. For contact information, click here. And PHCA staff is happy to help as well!

​​New OSHA Guidance for COVID-19 and AHCA/NCAL OSHA Resources
Our national organization, AHCA/NCAL, now has an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Respiratory​Protection Plan Template​. You should note that if respirators are being used (such as N95s), you must have a Respiratory Protection Program in place to comply with OSHA standards. OSHA has fined long term care providers for not having the protection plan in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The template is designed to be reviewed and tailored by each individual facility. Facilities should review the Respiratory Protection Standard (29.C.F.R. 1910.134).

OSHA has also released guidance for enforcement discretion when considering issuing citations for respirators and fit testing. This guidance applies only to fit-testing of NIOSH-approved tight-fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) used as a contingency capacity strategy when performing job tasks with high or very high occupational exposure risk to COVID-19.

Additionally, OSHA issued frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 reporting obligations. In the FAQs, OSHA has clarified what is considered an “incident” in the case of COVID-19, which triggers the time period for calculating whether a case meets the reportability criteria. The term “incident” is defined by OSHA as an exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace as opposed to when an employee develops symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. Additional information on reporting in-patient hospitalizations and employee deaths, including OSHA’s definition of in-patient hospitalizations can be found in the updated AHCA/NCAL OSHA resource on reporting and recording OSHA standards.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,088 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 1,166 new cases reported on Sunday.

That’s a two-day total of 2,254 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 173,304. 

Once again, the number of positive cases is rising throughout the state. We will continue to message your needs and concerns to members of the legislature, as well as DHS, DOH and the Governor’s office, especially as we enter the winter months and the number of cases spikes.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Friday, October 9, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Before we jump into today’s update, we wanted to take a moment to recognize and celebrate several of our members. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as cases begin to rise again across the state, we must take time to honor those who are providing quality care, each and every day.

Last week, a few of our member facilities were recognized as part of Newsweek’s 2021 ‘America’s Best Nursing Homes’ list. Providers were selected based on performance data, peer recommendations, and the facility’s handling of the COVID-19 threat.

PHCA would like to congratulate the following facilities:

Abramson Senior Care, the Southeastern Veterans’ Center, Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home, Hanover Hall Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, ManorCare Health Services – Oxford Valley, ManorCare Health Services – Bethel Park, ManorCare Health Services – Allentown, and ManorCare Health Services – Pottstown. 

We hope to see even more of our members on this list next year!

We’ve got a few important updates to share with you today before we head into the weekend:

DOH Releases Two New PA-HANs re: Usage of and Reporting Point-of-Care Testing
Late yesterday, the Department of Health released two new PA-HANs, which contained new guidance for reporting point-of-care COVID-19 test results (PA-HAN-531) and the usage and interpretation of point-of-care antigen tests (PA-HAN-532).

This guidance outlines the need for Pennsylvania laboratory permits, CLIA certificates and reporting requirements, as well as implications of false-negative or false-positive test results to guide resident care management.

If you have any questions about this new guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

BHSL to Resume On-Site Inspections Beginning This Month
Earlier today, the Office of Long-Term Living’s Bureau of Human Licensing (BHSL) announced it has resumed annual renewal on-site inspections effective October 5, 2020.

BHSL licensing representatives will be reviewing universal masking policies, screenings, and reporting processes during their on-site inspections and may cite a violation if warranted.

If your facility has not received the credentials needed to report using the COVID-19 Tracker tool, please email Jeanne Parisi directly at jeparisi@pa.gov. We have been assured that facilities that are unable to report for this reason will not be cited for non-reporting.

If you have any questions about this new process, please let us know.

CMS Releases Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Guidance
Late yesterday, CMS released updated Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment guidance based upon the recently enacted Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act.

The CMS guidance outlines the following repayment schedule, which is great news for our providers:

  • Repayment does not begin for one year starting from the date the accelerated or advance payment was issued (e.g., the date a SNF received its payment);
  • Beginning at one year from the date the payment was issued and continuing for 11 months, Medicare payments owed to providers and suppliers will be recouped at a rate of 25 percent;
  • After the 11 months end, Medicare payments owed to providers and suppliers will be recouped at a rate of 50 percent for another six months; and
  • After the six months end, a letter for any remaining balance of the accelerated or advance payment(s) will be issued.

For more information, click here for the CMS Factsheet and here for the FAQ document.

For questions related to the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, contact your designated MAC. For contact information, click here.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,380 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of four cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 169,308.

This is the fourth day in a row in which 1,000+ positive cases have been reported. The department has identified notable increases in Philadelphia County.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Thursday, October 8, 2020 – 5:46 p.m.

Once again, we’ve got a few important updates and reminders to share with you today:

Update: DOH Releases New PA-HAN re: Testing & Cohorting Guidance
Yesterday, the Department of Health released a new PA-HAN – PA-HAN 530 – which outlines updated guidance for utilizing testing and cohorting as tools to mitigate and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the event of an outbreak or facility exposure.

The guidance indicated that staff should actively be screened for fever and COVID-19 symptoms at the start and end of their shift; however, we received clarification today that facilities are required to screen staff at the beginning of their shift only.

While facilities are not required to screen at the end of the shift, it was noted as being a good (or best) practice.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

DHS Conducting New Survey to Understand Usage, Challenges of Health IT
On Tuesday, October 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) will launch a new survey to better understand the adoption, usage and challenges of health information technology experienced by healthcare providers, including those in long-term care.

To review the survey, click here.

The survey will be available Tuesday, October 20 through Tuesday, November 24. To complete this survey, click here. DHS estimates the survey will take 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

If you have questions regarding this survey, please send an email to c-amckenna@pa.gov with the subject “Health IT Survey Questions”.

Reminder: HHS Application Portal for Additional COVID-19 Funding Now Open
The application window for the third tranche of coronavirus relief funding for SNF and AL/PC providers is now open. The application window closes on Friday, November 6 at 11:59 p.m.

To apply, all applicants must submit their TIN and financial information via the Provider Relief Fund Application and Attestation Portal. Providers should apply if they have lost revenues and/or increased expenses attributable to COVID-19 that have not been reimbursed by other sources.

To apply, you must provide the following required documentation:

  • Most recent federal income tax return for 2017, 2018, or 2019, unless exempt
  • Revenue worksheet (if required by Field 15)
  • Operating revenues and expenses from patient care

You must submit a new application to be eligible for this round of funding, even if you previously submitted revenue details for a prior PRF distribution.

If you have any questions about the application process or this new funding tranche, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PHCA team.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,376 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 67 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 167,928.

This is the third day in a row in which 1,000+ positive cases have been reported. The department has identified notable increases in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

We’ve got a number of important updates to share with you today:

DOH Releases New PA-HAN re: Testing & Cohorting Guidance
Earlier today, the Department of Health released a new PA-HAN – PA-HAN 530 – which outlines updated guidance for utilizing testing and cohorting as tools to mitigate and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the event of an outbreak or facility exposure – this HAN is not limited to only skilled nursing facilities.

Please note: this guidance supersedes PA-HAN-509.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our team.

DOH Releases Revised FAQs on Use, Distribution of PPE
Late this afternoon, the Department of Health released a revised FAQ document to
address questions regarding Secretary Levine’s order re: use and distribution of PPE first issued on Thursday, August 17.

This FAQ has been organized into four key areas: policy and support issues, personal protective equipment, respirators, and other issues. Please refer to the list of acronyms at the end of the FAQ document, as definitions have not been included in each individual section.

If you have any questions regarding this FAQ document, please let us know.

Reminder: HHS Application Portal for Additional COVID-19 Funding Now Open
The application window for the third tranche of coronavirus relief funding for SNF and AL/PC providers is now open! Unlike past distributions, this latest funding tranche includes an application process, and you’re encouraged to apply as soon as possible to expedite the calculation methodology and distribution of payments. The application window closes on Friday, November 6 at 11:59 p.m.

To apply, all applicants must submit their TIN and financial information via the Provider Relief Fund Application and Attestation Portal. Providers should apply if they have lost revenues and/or increased expenses attributable to COVID-19 that have not been reimbursed by other sources.

To apply, you must provide the following required documentation:

  • Most recent federal income tax return for 2017, 2018, or 2019, unless exempt
  • Revenue worksheet (if required by Field 15)
  • Operating revenues and expenses from patient care

You must submit a new application to be eligible for this round of funding, even if you previously submitted revenue details for a prior PRF distribution.

If you have any questions about the application process or this new funding tranche, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PHCA team.

New 2020 General Election Resources Now Available
Ahead of voter registration and ballot request deadlines for the upcoming General Election, PHCA has worked to develop and compile several new resources to share tips and best practices to help you facilitate the voting process for your residents:

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our staff.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

CMS, CDC to Host Live Q&A on Fundamentals of COVID-19 Prevention for Nursing Home Management Tomorrow
This live Q&A series is open to all clinical and administrative nursing home staff and others who have completed the self-paced, on-demand CMS-CDC Fundamentals of COVID-19 Prevention for Nursing Home Management training.

This session is scheduled for tomorrow – Thursday, October 8 – at 4 p.m.

To register, click here. You may submit questions in advance of tomorrow’s Q&A via email to DVACSupport@thebizzellgroup.com.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,309 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 273 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 166,552.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020 – 5:44 p.m.

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation Passes State Senate Unanimously, Now Heads to House of Representatives
Earlier today, Senate Bill 1268, which would allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to become CNAs (as long as they meet certain training requirements), passed the state Senate unanimously, 50-0.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, and we are already engaged in dialogue with leaders in that chamber.

This is fantastic news for our membership, and we are one step closer to retaining our temporary nurse aides after the disaster declarations end.

To read our media statement, click here.

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
This afternoon, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Our Advocacy Efforts Continue
This morning, PHCA was, once again, the voice of long-term care in Pennsylvania, as we offered testimony during a public hearing before the state House Republican Policy Committee. Our testimony focused on the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the delivery of health care, and specifically long-term care, throughout the Commonwealth.

To read the testimony we shared during today’s public hearing, click here.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on these efforts moving forward.

New 2020 General Election Resource Now Available
Ahead of voter registration and ballot request deadlines for the upcoming General Election, PHCA has worked with our members to develop a new resource to share important deadlines and provide tips/best practices to help you facilitate the voting process for your residents.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our staff.

Abbott BinaxNOW to Offer Two Trainings for Providers Using BinaxNOW COVID-19 Tests
This afternoon, Abbott announced two educational webinars for providers utilizing the BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests. These webinars will offer supplemental education to reinforce the training toolkit and highlight key points that should be kept in mind when implementing testing strategies using this new equipment. The webinars have been scheduled for later this week:

Wednesday, October 7 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
To register, click here.

Friday, October 9 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
To register, click here.

For additional training videos or other training resources, click here.

2021 Silver Quality Award Program Workshops Kick-Off Tomorrow
Last week, we announced new 2021 Quality Award Program workshops for those interested in applying for the AHCA/NCAL Silver Award or Bronze Award. Keep in mind, these workshops are free of charge.

The Silver Award workshops kick-off tomorrow! To register, click here.

The intent to apply deadline is Thursday, November 12. And don’t forget: Chris Fisher and Pete Tartline on our PHCA staff are available to review your application and answer any questions you may have.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,036 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 364 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 165,243.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Monday, October 5, 2020 – 6:29 p.m.

Late last week, HHS Secretary Alex Azar authorized and extended the federal emergency declaration as part of the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This extension will continue through January 27, 2021, and it will ensure that waivers including the elimination of the 3-Day Stay rule and telemedicine/telehealth will remain available for our providers across the country.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

HHS Application Portal for Additional $20 Billion in COVID-19 Funding Now OPEN!
Last week, we shared a federal HHS announcement regarding additional coronavirus relief funding for SNF and AL/PC providers. Unlike past distributions, this latest funding tranche will include an application process, and you’re encouraged to apply as soon as possible to expedite the calculation methodology and distribution of payments. The application window opened today and will remain available through Friday, November 6 at 11:59 p.m.

To apply, all applicants must submit their TIN and financial information via the Provider Relief Fund Application and Attestation Portal. Providers should apply if they have lost revenues and/or increased expenses attributable to COVID-19 that have not been reimbursed by other sources.

To apply, you must provide the following required documentation:

  • Most recent federal income tax return for 2017, 2018, or 2019, unless exempt
  • Revenue worksheet (if required by Field 15)
  • Operating revenues and expenses from patient care

Please note: You must submit a new application to be eligible for this round of funding, even if you previously submitted revenue details for a prior PRF distribution.

If you have any questions about the application process or this new funding tranche, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PHCA team.

ECHO-IHI to Host COVID-19 Learning Network Kickoff Calls
The ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network will host a nursing home introductory webinar series throughout the month of October. The series includes five 30-minute sessions designed to provide nursing home staff with a 15-minute update on infection control best practices, a 10-minute introduction to the National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network led by the ECHO-IHI team, and five minutes for participant questions.

To learn more or to register for an upcoming webinar, click here.

AHCA/NCAL to Host Second Provider Relief Fund Reporting Office Hours
This Friday, October 9 at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will host a second round of office hours on the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) reporting guidance. Speakers will address PRF reporting and financial management requirements and suggested action steps; possible approach to stimulus reconciliation and modeling; and highlights from written responses to last week’s webinar follow-up Q&A.

This webinar is open to all AHCA/NCAL members. To register, click here.

For a recording of last week’s webinar, click here. Be sure you log in to your AHCA/NCAL account to view the archived recording.

Updated Testing Resource Now Available
As a reminder, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – and this list has been updated as of today, October 5. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher on our staff.

Update on Technology Outages Affecting Department of State Licensing Portal
Last Friday, we shared that the Pennsylvania Department of State announced an additional 30-day extension for Practical Nurse renewals.

Over the weekend, the Pennsylvania Department of State experienced a severe outage that impacted the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS) and other online professional licensing-related services. In order to make the appropriate repairs, data center engineers have temporarily turned off all services. As soon as a more firm timeline for restoration has been identified, we will share that information with you.

Please be sure to provide this information to any of your staff who are attempting to renew their licenses using the PALS system.

Reminder: PHCA Launches New Searchable COVID-19 Resource Catalog
Over the past several months, the CDC, CMS, DOH and DHS have released a significant number of directives, orders and guidance for long-term care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to make this as simple and as searchable as possible, PHCA has cataloged and organized these resources into a database for our members. You can search these resources by title, category or by month.

We continue to make adjustments to this catalog to make it as user-friendly as possible. As you use this resource, please be sure to share any feedback you have with Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Pennsylvania Daily COVID-19 Case Count
No, we didn’t forget to include it…we just wanted to make sure you’re still paying attention.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 672 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 164,207.

As a result of a technical issue that occurred over the weekend, the department reported a two-day increase of 2,251 – there was no daily breakdown of positive cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

 

Friday, October 2, 2020 – 6:04 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,161 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of five cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 161,284.

This is the third day in a row that Pennsylvania has confirmed more than 1,100 positive cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

Update: HHS $20 Billion for COVID-19 Funding Available for ALL Providers
Yesterday, we shared a federal HHS announcement regarding additional coronavirus relief funding for AL/PC providers. We have good news and a clarification to report: this funding is available for SNF providers as well.

As we told you yesterday: unlike past distributions, this latest funding tranche will include an application process. HHS will begin accepting applications this Monday, October 5. The application window will remain open through November 6.

We’ve been told to tell you to apply early, especially given that virtually all health care providers are now eligible to apply for this funding – even those providers who received funding previously.

As soon as the application portal opens on Monday, we’ll send that information (and exactly how to apply) to you. We expect to learn more details over the weekend.

Pennsylvania Extends Renewal Deadlines for LPNs
We’ve received a number of questions over the past few days regarding the licensed practical nurse (LPN) renewal deadline that was scheduled for this past Monday, September 28. Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced an additional 30-day extension for Practical Nurse renewals.

Please note: this will likely be the final extension for this position. All renewals are due on October 31st.

Pennsylvania Division of Immunization Offering Flu Vaccine
If you are interested in procuring the influenza vaccine, you may do so through the Pennsylvania Division of Immunization. Please contact Jennifer Bixler at 717-787-5681 or via email at jebixler@pa.gov for more information.

Although most of our members have likely already ordered influenza vaccines or have already started immunizations, please note this resource is available to all provider types including skilled nursing, assisted living, and personal care communities.

Project ECHO: Networks Now Recruiting Provider Participants
Project ECHO is now actively recruiting nursing home providers to participate in a 16-week interactive virtual community to advance COVID-19 preparedness efforts, safety, and infection control. This program is supported by the federal agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

Nursing homes eligible to receive funding from the Provider Relief Fund that actively participate in the 16-week training can receive $6,000 in compensation and training.

To complete an interest form that will connect you to a nearby training center, click here.

To join the webinar series ‘National Nursing Home COVID-19 Safety Conversations’, click here.

PHCA in the News
Over the past several weeks, we’ve hosted media availabilities and fielded several media inquiries regarding the challenges facing long-term care providers. Here are just a few media stories from this week that showcase your first-hand experiences from the front lines:

PHCA Launches New Searchable COVID-19 Resource Catalog
Over the past several months, the CDC, CMS, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Department of Human Services have released a significant number of directives, orders and guidance for long-term care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to make this as simple and as searchable as possible, PHCA has cataloged and organized these resources into a database for our members. You can search these resources by title, category or by month.

We continue to make adjustments to this catalog to make it as user-friendly as possible. As you use this resource, please be sure to share any feedback you have with Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

2020 Pennsylvania General Assembly Candidate Questionnaire Results Now Available
This summer, PHCA sent a questionnaire to the candidates for Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate seats to learn more about their willingness to support the extraordinary efforts of long-term care providers across the state.

We’re proud to report this year’s candidate questionnaire saw the best response rate in our history. That’s in no small part thanks to your continued advocacy and engagement over the past several months.

You can check out the questionnaire results here.

 

Thursday, October 1, 2020 – 6:46 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,156 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of three cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 160,123.

This also marks the first time in a long time that Pennsylvania has reported more than 1,100 positive cases two days in a row.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

HHS Announces Additional $20 Billion in COVID-19 Funding for AL/PC Providers
Good news: earlier today, the federal HHS announced an additional tranche of $20 billion in coronavirus relief funding for AL/PC providers, as well as providers that opened and began operating between January 1 – March 31, 2020.

Starting this Monday, October 5, the Department of Health and Human Services will begin accepting applications for the Phase 3 General Distribution of COVID-19 relief. This application window will remain open through November 6; however, HHS is encouraging providers apply as quickly as possible.

We are awaiting additional details about the application process, and we’ll get this information to you as quickly as possible.

President Trump Signs H.R. 8337: What It Means for You
This morning, President Trump signed H.R. 8337 into law, which (among other things): modifies the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs under Medicare parts A and B during the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation changes the terms of loan repayment in several ways, including:

  • Part A providers, in addition to hospitals, now have an extension from 120 days of the loan to 29 months from the date of the first payment.
  • Repayments for both Part A and Part B providers will not begin until at least a year from the date of the original payment from CMS.

To learn more, click here.

Updates from BHSL for AL/PC Providers
This afternoon, we shared several updates from BHSL with our AL/PC providers regarding the timing of state CARES Act funding and the COVID-19 data reporting tool. Here is a quick update on those issues:

Inspections – BHSL is planning to begin on-site visits next week. They plan to prioritize facilities that are operating pending appeal, provisional licenses, new homes, and on-site renewals.

CARES Act funding – A new list of processed payments was released today and includes which payments have been processed as of Wednesday, September 23. A template for tracking expenses related to this is expected to be released tomorrow.

COVID-19 data reporting tool – The reporting tool vendor has worked through most of the backlogged requests. If you have not received your login credentials by the end of the day on Monday (10/5), please email Jeanne Parisi directly at jeparisi@pa.gov to ensure the appropriate follow-up.

DOH Releases New Guidance re: Considerations for Evaluating Patients for COVID-19
Late today, the Department of Health released new guidance – PA-HAN 528 – outlining considerations for evaluating patients for COVID-19.

To help protect public health, it is imperative that patients presenting with even mild symptoms be evaluated for COVID-19, including an assessment of the patient’s history for potential exposures.

If a patient is identified as being a close contact of a COVID-19 case, it is strongly recommended that they be tested for COVID-19 at least two or three days after the exposure, regardless of the presence of symptoms. Information about insurance coverage and COVID-19 testing can be found here.

AHCA/NCAL Launches 2021 Quality Award Program
The 2021 Quality Award Program is officially underway. In light of the challenges brought on by COVID-19, PHCA has partnered with other state affiliates to offer the attached workshops for those interested in applying for the Silver Award or Bronze Award.

Keep in mind, these workshops are free of charge.

The intent to apply deadline is Thursday, November 12. And don’t forget, Chris Fisher and Pete Tartline on our PHCA staff are available to review your application and answer any questions you may have.

Reminder: AHCA/NCAL to Host Office Hours on Provider Relief Fund Reporting Requirements
Tomorrow at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will be hosting office hours to provide up-to-date answers to your questions about provider relief fund reporting requirements based upon available information and interpretation.

No pre-registration is required, but you will need to log in using your computer or WebEx application as all questions will be accepted using the chat function. All lines will be muted.

For login details for tomorrow’s call, click here.

 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 – 5:40 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,153 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 165 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 158,967.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have a few important updates to share with you today:

PHCA Hosts Virtual Press Conference on Evolving Guidelines, Considerations as Providers ‘Reopen’ Facilities and Communities for Visitation
Earlier today, PHCA hosted a virtual press conference – the fourth in our ‘From the Front Lines’ series of biweekly media updates – to share insights from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes.

Today’s press conference focused on the evolving guidelines and considerations for long-term care providers as you attempt to ‘reopen’ facilities and communities for visitation. To put it simply: how are providers striking the balance between the safety of their residents and staff and the desire to reopen their doors to visitors?

We’d like to thank Megan Campbell, chief operating officer of IntegraCare, who participated in today’s press conference. Megan did a fabulous job outlining not only the operational and financial challenges of evolving visitation guidance, but also the emotional response from residents, staff, and loved ones.

You can watch today’s press conference here.

We continue to see a great response from media outlets from across the state – including national trade publications.

If you are interested in joining us as a speaker during one of our upcoming media events, please reach out to Shayna Varner, our director of communications, at svarner@phca.org to learn more.

New Legislation Addressing Liability Protections Moving in the State House of Representatives
Earlier today, the state House of Representatives’ State Government Committee formally approved legislation of utmost importance to our membership: liability protections for long-term care providers, as well as other healthcare providers.

After weeks of inaction at the federal level, we’re thrilled to see movement on this important legislation. Given the hurdles we’ve overcome to get to this point, it will take significant grassroots support to get this bill to the finish line.

We’re working on these details and will keep you posted on next steps. Stay tuned!

AHCA/NCAL to Host Office Hours on Provider Relief Fund Reporting Requirements
This Friday, October 2 at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will be hosting office hours to provide up-to-date answers to your questions about provider relief fund reporting requirements based upon available information and interpretation.

No pre-registration is required but you will need to log in using your computer or WebEx application as all questions will be accepted using the chat function. All lines will be muted.

For more information on Friday’s call, click here.

AHCA/NCAL Calls on State Governors to Prioritize Long-Term Care Residents, Staff for COVID-19 Vaccine
AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is calling on state governors to prioritize residents and staff in long-term care facilities for an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. As state officials prepare to submit plans to the CDC on how the state will distribute doses of the vaccine, AHCA/NCAL sent a letter to the National Governors Association and state governors urging them to prioritize residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

This would include nursing homes, assisted living and memory care communities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities, and independent living communities.

New CMS Rule Requires All Providers to Transmit Medical Records, Documentation Electronically
Federal regulations under a new CMS rule – CMS-1735-F – now requires all providers to transmit medical records and other documentation (such as notices of non-coverage) to the Beneficiary and Family-Centered Care – Quality Improvement Organizations (BFCC-QIOs) electronically using a new submission method. Providers will now be reimbursed a flat rate of $3 per case for electronic submissions.

Beginning tomorrow, October 1, Livanta will accept medical records electronically in two ways – direct secure messaging or the Livanta file transfer portal. Providers may choose which method is best for them and submit medical records accordingly.

Providers without an EMR MUST obtain a waiver from the Livanta BFCC-QIO to continue faxing medical records.

For more information on the transmission process or for more information on how to apply for a waiver, click here.

Reminder: ECHO National Nursing Home Action Network to Host Webinar on COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes
Tomorrow at 1:30 p.m., there will be a webinar hosted by the ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network regarding COVID-19 testing in nursing homes. There will be a moderated Q&A session following each presentation. To register, click here.

 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 – 7:13 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 988 new cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 312 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 157,814.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Additionally, we’re just under 2 hours away from the first Presidential debate, and while tonight’s topics include the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, the state of our cities, and the validity of mail-in voting, we have to wonder: will long-term care become a true campaign issue before the 2020 election is over?

Earlier today, Quality Life Services welcomed PHCA to their Grove City location, where we filmed a series of interviews regarding long-term care, the state/federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 election. And we took a very strong position: no matter which candidate prevails, long-term care providers, workers and residents must be supported in the coming months and years. That interview should air nationally in the next few weeks.

We have a few important updates to share with you today:

CMS Releases New Guidance re: Emergency Preparedness Testing Exercise Requirements
Earlier today, CMS released new guidance that revised the requirements for emergency preparedness.

And while CMS revised cycles for review and updated requirements to the emergency preparedness program, facilities will still be required to review their emergency program annually.

In addition, the new guidance allows for an exemption to the testing requirements during or after an actual emergency.

The QSO includes a worksheet that provides guidance for both surveyors and providers and includes relevant scenarios on meeting the testing requirements in light of many of the response activities associated with COVID-19.

If you meet the requirements outlined in the Exemption Clause of the QSO, you must maintain documentation that you have activated your emergency plan. A list of the acceptable documentation and the steps surveyors are to use when determining the appropriate use of the Exemption Clause, can be found on page 9.

Please let us know if you have any questions regarding these changes.

DOH Releases New FAQ on State Guidance Released September 3
Earlier today, the Department of Health posted a new FAQ document to the Message Board to address questions related to the department’s guidance issued on September 3. This FAQ document addresses questions related to testing, as well as other miscellaneous items.

As we’ve shared previously, the Department of Health is currently reviewing the most recent CMS guidance, QSO-20-38-NH and QSO-20-39-NH, to determine whether updates to existing state guidance are necessary.

Please note: if there are inconsistencies between the CMS QSOs and DOH guidance, providers should follow the CMS QSOs. Federal guidance takes precedence over the state directives.

If you have any questions regarding this guidance or new information shared in the FAQ, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

ECHO National Nursing Home Action Network to Host Webinar on COVID-19 Testing in Nursing Homes
This Thursday at 1:30 p.m., there will be a webinar hosted by the ECHO National Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network on COVID-19 testing in nursing homes.

There will be a moderated Q&A session following each presentation. You must register to attend. To register, click here.  We encourage you to make every effort to participate.

Reminder: AHCA/NCAL Announces Office Hours to Answer Questions re: New Department of Labor Requirements
This Wednesday at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will host office hours to answer your questions about the new Department of Labor leave requirements in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. After the presentation, there will be time for questions.

Please note, this is not meant to take the place of guidance from your company’s legal counsel.

No pre-registration is required, but you will need to login to the call using your computer or the WebEx app as questions will be accepted using the chat functionality. All lines will be muted. Details for the call are below:

To join the WebEX, click here.

  • Meeting number (access code): 172 101 3462
  • Meeting password: Pb3V8xmJJW2

We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity, as these new rules can be quite confusing for employers.

Monday, September 28, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 676 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 918 new cases reported on Sunday. That’s a two-day total of 1,594 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 156,826. 

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have two important updates to share with you today:

New Considerations For Testing Residents, Employees and Screening for COVID-19
With test kits being distributed to SNF and AL/PC providers over the next several weeks, there are several considerations to take into account regarding screening employees, as well as testing both employees and residents for COVID-19.

First, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends employees be screened privately. Medical information, including an employee’s temperature and answers to screening questions, should be maintained as a private medical record. Time spent waiting for health screening and testing should be recorded as time worked for non-exempt employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reminds employers that typically, measuring an employee’s body temperature is a medical examination. Employers may measure employees’ body temperature because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged the community spread of COVID-19 and issued precautions.

To learn more about these new considerations and recommendations, click here.

AHCA/NCAL Announces Office Hours to Answer Questions re: New Department fo Labor Requirements
This Wednesday, September 30 at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will host office hours to answer your questions about the new Department of Labor leave requirements in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. After the presentation, there will be time for questions.

Please note, this is not meant to take the place of guidance from your company’s legal counsel.

No pre-registration is required, but you will need to login to the call using your computer or the WebEx app as questions will be accepted using the chat functionality. All lines will be muted. Details for the call are below:

To join the WebEX, click here:

  • Meeting number (access code): 172 101 3462
  • Meeting password: Pb3V8xmJJW2

We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity, as these new rules can be quite confusing for employers.

 

Friday, September 25, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 806 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 47 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 154,203.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have a few updates to share as we wrap up the week:

CHPE Releases Preliminary Report on COVID-19 Point of Care Antigen and PCR Tests in Nursing Homes
The Center for Health Policy Evaluation in Long-Term Care (CHPE) has released a preliminary report on inconsistencies in test results between antigen tests and PCR tests among nursing home staff and residents – and we thought it was important to share this report with you.

An initial survey found the level of inconsistencies is consistent with what would normally be expected when testing a large number of asymptomatic individuals using this type of test. BD and Quidel, the test kit manufacturers, continue to investigate these reports, but to date, they have not discovered any obvious reason for these conflicting results.

The report encourages providers to continue using antigen point-of-care devices for widespread testing; however, it strongly recommends providers take the following steps:

Be sure to complete the manufacturer’s training modules: 

Confirm you are following all of the manufacturer’s testing protocols, and follow the CDC recommendation on confirming antigen test results, which includes conducting confirmation testing when antigen tests are positive among asymptomatic individuals.

Report discordant results directly to the test manufacturer:

  • For BD Veritor potential false positives, providers should call 1-800-638-8663 (press 2 for technical support, then press 1 for Veritor support) or email BD at Technical_Services@bd.com.
  • For Quidel potential false positives, providers should call 1-800-874-1517 (press option 2, then option 1). Providers can also email Quidel at technicalsupport@quidel.com.

To download the report in its entirety, click here.

Project ECHO Announces Webinar to Introduce COVID-19 Action Network for SNFs
Project ECHO, which was developed with funding from the Agency of Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), has announced it will host a webinar next week to introduce a new COVID-19 Action Network for skilled nursing providers.

We encourage you to join the webinar next Thursday, October 1 at 1:30 p.m. To register, click here.

We hope to have additional information regarding Project ECHO early next week, before Thursday’s webinar.

First COVID-19 Criminal Charges Filed Against Nursing Home Operators in Massachusetts
Earlier today, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed criminal charges against two administrators of a veterans’ home, in which 76 residents died as a result of COVID-19. These charges are believed to be the first criminal charges in the country filed against nursing home officials in connection with pandemic concerns.

It’s worth noting that an independent government report released three months ago claimed that one of the operators was not qualified to operate a long-term care facility and alleged that “substantial errors and failures” led to the deaths.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on this story.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
On Wednesday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

 

Thursday, September 24, 2020 – 5:44 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 853 new cases of COVID-19 – a decrease of 45 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 153,397.

The Department is reporting a notable increase of cases in Centre County.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

Update from Today’s Call with BHSL
Earlier today, we shared several updates from BHSL Director Jeanne Parisi with our AL/PC providers surrounding the timing of state CARES Act payments, the COVID-19 tracker, the RRHCP programs, etc. Here is a quick update on those issues:

CARES Act payments – Today, BHSL reported less than half of all CARES Act payments have been processed. BHSL is working to develop a master list to track the status of these payments.

COVID-19 Tracker – There continue to be challenges with the new tracker database- approximately 250 providers have not yet received their username or password. The goal is to have these login issues remedied by next week. As a reminder: this new tracker was to be used for all reporting beginning Monday, August 28.

RRHCPs – Clearly, the most significant challenge identified by the RRHCPs for AL/PC providers has been staffing. The RRHCPs are encouraging providers to develop relationships and/or agreements with agency staff to provide backup, as needed. The RRHCPs should also be able to help, but that support has been inconsistent thus far.

New visitation and testing guidance – New visitation and testing guidance released by DHS is not an order – it should be considered best practice. Providers are encouraged to follow this guidance, as possible, to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff.

Inspections – It is anticipated that information on resuming inspections will be released by the end of this week or early next week. The target date to begin resuming inspections is October. BHSL will be prioritizing inspections with a focus on provisional licenses and those in appeal status first, More information on this will be shared soon.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher, or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 898 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 54 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 152,544.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

As a reminder: You do not need to adjust your testing frequency today based on this new release of data. Providers should be documenting their “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Compassionate Caregiver Webinar Postponed
Unfortunately, given the new visitation guidance issued by CMS late last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has requested we postpone tomorrow’s Compassionate Caregiver webinar as they review the new guidance and update their existing guidance to provide consistency. We’ve been advised by DOH officials that all providers should follow the CMS guidance until new state guidelines are released.

We apologize for the short notice, and we will update you as soon as we get this webinar rescheduled.

If you have any questions pertaining to the guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

Reminder: HHS Releases PRF Reporting Guidance
As a reminder, on September 21, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new information regarding reporting requirements for recipients of funds from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, as well as additional information related to potential future audits.

This update provides guidance for our sector that CARES Act funds can be used to make up for lost revenue up to 2019 net operating income levels.

ICYMI: CMS Administrator Seema Verma to Headline UNCONVENTIONAL2020
Yesterday, we were thrilled to announce that CMS Administrator Seema Verma will headline UNCONVENTIONAL 2020, PHCA’s virtual convention and trade show, this November!

For the first time in the history of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, we’ll be joined at our convention by the top CMS official in Washington, D.C.

We can’t wait to welcome Administrator Verma for an interactive discussion, including a look back at the COVID-19 pandemic – and a look ahead to what’s next for long-term care providers and CMS.

Stay tuned for more exciting speaker announcements and updated session descriptions at phca.org/unconventional.

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 834 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 – an increase of 600 new cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 151,646.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

Special Announcement: CMS Administrator Seema Verma to Headline UNCONVENTIONAL2020
We are thrilled to announce CMS Administrator Seema Verma will headline UNCONVENTIONAL 2020 – PHCA’s virtual convention and trade show, this November!

For the first time in the history of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, we’ll be joined at our convention by the top CMS official in Washington, D.C.

We can’t wait to welcome Administrator Verma for an interactive discussion, including a look back at the COVID-19 pandemic – and a look ahead to what’s next for long-term care providers and CMS.

Stay tuned for more exciting speaker announcements and updated session descriptions at phca.org/unconventional.

New HHS Guidance Released for Provider Relief Fund Reporting
The federal Department of Health and Human Services has released new guidance on reporting requirements for the Provider Relief Fund program. According to this new guidance, operators who received more than $10,000 in Provider Relief Fund payments must now submit healthcare-related expenses attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The notice provides additional details regarding data elements providers will be required to submit. The data elements must be submitted for calendar years 2019 and 2020 as part of the reporting process.

While it looks like the new reporting guidance confirms that Provider Relief Fund payments can be used through June 2021, we’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation Voted Out of Senate Education Committee
Great news for providers: earlier this afternoon, members of the state Senate Education Committee voted Temporary Nurse Aide training legislation out of their committee, and it now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

As a reminder, this bill would enable our temporary nurse aides, a position created during the pandemic, to become eligible for the CNA registry moving forward.

We’ll keep the pressure on throughout the next several weeks to get this bill across the finish line.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Last week, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Providers should be documenting the “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

Tomorrow: PHCA Webinar to Highlight Reopening Strategies for Providers
Tomorrow at 2 p.m., PHCA will host Robyn Colajezzi and Mike McGrory from SERVPRO – a PHCA business partner – to walk through current Department of Health orders and requirements for businesses, ‘new normal’ cleaning standards and HVAC considerations, as well las post-pandemic decisions for business owners and back-to-work guidance. Learn more and register below:

Is your business ready to re-open? What you need to know.
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To register, click here.

 

Monday, September 21, 2020 – 5:31 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 234 new cases of COVID-19, in addition to 733 new cases reported on Sunday. That makes for a two-day total of 967 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 150,812.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

PHCA Hosts Second Legislative Briefing on Long-Term Care Response to COVID-19
Earlier today, we held our second PHCA Legislative Briefing conference call with every member of the general assembly. As you may recall, we hosted our first-ever legislative briefing in late April to highlight the critical challenges you were facing and the need for collaboration and support from state officials.

Today, more than 100 members of the state House and Senate joined us, not to mention committee staff and legislative directors, to learn more about ongoing staffing challenges, PPE and testing shortages, critical funding needs and medical liability issues. And we’ve already heard from a number of those legislators throughout the day…they want to help you and your residents.

To download and listen to a recording of our briefing, click here.

With just a few weeks of legislative session left, we’re working for more ‘wins’ for our membership.

Abbott BinaxNOW™ Webinar Resources Now Available
Last week, the federal Department of Health and Human Services and Abbott BinaxNOW™ hosted a webinar for SNF and AL/PC providers to walk through training, resources, and modules in preparation for deliveries of new testing kits. Those providers in red counties will be prioritized and should receive enough tests to complete the required testing protocols.

Slides from last week’s webinar can be found here. As a reminder, the training module for these test kits is available here.

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Last week, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Providers should be documenting the “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

PHCA Joins Coalition Group to Support Renewed Push for Medical Liability Protections
We’ve been working closely with other organizations to address the ongoing need for medical liability protections for long-term care providers. In fact, this was an important component of our legislative briefing call earlier today.

While we still have a long way to go, we are making progress. In the coming days, the state Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to review Senate Bill 1239, introduced by Senator Lisa Baker (R – Luzerne), which would provide targeted, temporary liability relief for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 emergency.

We know what the impact will be if our lawmakers don’t take action. We’ll continue to advocate on your behalf, and we may be asking you to get involved, too.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

DOH Releases New PA-HAN Related to Testing After COVID-19 Exposure
This afternoon, DOH released new guidance – PA-HAN 527 – related to testing and management guidance for residents after being exposed to COVID-19. This new guidance provides recommendations and considerations for COVID-19 testing including:

  • Individuals who have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case should be tested for COVID-19 regardless of the presence of symptoms.
  • COVID-19 testing may also be advised for individuals who were in a substantial transmission zone and attended a gathering of more than 10 people without universal mask wearing and physical distancing.
  • Persons who test positive for COVID-19 do not need to repeat a test for at least three months.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff if you have any questions.

IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: PHCA to Partner with DOH to Offer New Compassionate Caregiver Webinar
Given the significant number of questions surrounding the Department of Health’s new guidance around the compassionate caregiver program, PHCA will be hosting a webinar with DOH this Thursday, September 24 to review the program, the expectations of providers, and the guidance in detail.

This webinar will be presented by Susan Williamson, director of the Division of Nursing Care Facilities, and Keara Klinepeter, special advisor to the Secretary of Health.

To learn more or to register, click here.

Upcoming PHCA Webinar to Highlight Reopening Strategies for Providers
This Wednesday, September 23 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host Robyn Colajezzi and Mike McGrory from SERVPRO – a PHCA business partner – to walk through current Department of Health orders and requirements for businesses, ‘new normal’ cleaning standards and HVAC considerations, as well las post-pandemic decisions for business owners and back-to-work guidance. Learn more and register below:

Is your business ready to re-open? What you need to know.
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To register, click here.

 

Friday, September 18, 2020 – 7:13 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 760 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 233 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 148,683.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today:

PHCA in the News
Over the past several weeks, we’ve hosted media availabilities and fielded several media inquiries regarding the challenges facing long-term care providers. Here’s just a few examples of how we’re working to change the narrative at both the state and federal level, every single day:

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Yesterday, CMS announced new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Providers should be documenting the “self-scheduled” time to check for updates to the CMS testing data. Any changes to testing frequency should take place the week following the documented “self-scheduled” check.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time. We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

CMS Outlines Citations, Penalties for Nursing Homes Who Fail to Facilitate In-Person Visitation
Late yesterday afternoon, CMS issued new guidance for visitation in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, CMS announced the new guidance was developed to outline reasonable ways a nursing home can facilitate in-person visitation, and failure to do so “without adequate reason related to clinical necessity or resident safety” would constitute a potential violation. It could also lead to a citation and enforcement actions.

When considering this guidance, we encourage you to keep these things in mind:

  • Outdoor visits are preferred, given the potential lower risk of transmission due to increased space and airflow.
  • Facilities should accommodate and support indoor visits, beyond compassionate care situations, if there have been no new cases in the last 14 days and visitors adhere to core infection control principles.
  • Nursing homes should limit the number of visitors per resident and the number of visitors in the facility at a single moment, and limit movement within the facility.
  • Visits can occur at facilities in areas with low or medium COVID-19 county positivity rates, while visits at facilities in areas with high rates should only occur for compassion care situations.

Per CMS, nursing homes can restrict access to visitors who don’t follow the required infection control protocols.

We expect to learn more about this guidance and the potential citations or penalties in the coming days and weeks. As soon as we have additional information, we’ll share that with you.

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.

DHS Releases New Guidance for AL/PC Providers
Late this afternoon, the Department of Human Services released new guidance for AL/PC providers outlining recommendations for testing strategies, visitation policies, communal dining and group activities. This guidance largely mirrors the guidance released by the Department of Health earlier this month.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to DHS directly at ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our staff here at PHCA if we can be of assistance, too.

Update on Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Test Kit Distribution
During today’s national testing webinar, we learned that shipments of Abbott BinaxNOW™ test kits have begun to be delivered to facilities. Those providers in red counties will be prioritized and should receive enough tests to complete the required testing protocols.

As a reminder, the training module for these test kits is available here. As soon as a recording of today’s webinar is made available, we will share it with you.

CMS to Host Nursing Home Stakeholder Call to Discuss Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes Recommendations
As we shared in last night’s update, the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes – established by the White House in late April – released its recommendations on protections for nursing home residents in the wake of COVID-19 and in preparation for future pandemics or public health emergencies.

CMS Chief Medical Officer Lee Fleisher, MD and agency officials will be hosting a national stakeholder call with nursing homes this Monday, September 21 at 2 p.m. to discuss these recommendations. Details to join the call are below:

Toll-Free Dial-In Number: (833) 614-0820
Conference ID: 7883929

Conference lines are limited. To join the call via webcast, click here

IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: PHCA to Partner with DOH to Offer New Compassionate Caregiver Webinar
Given the significant number of questions surrounding the Department of Health’s new guidance around the compassionate caregiver program, PHCA will be hosting a webinar with DOH next Thursday, September 24 to review the program, the expectations of providers, and the guidance in detail.

This webinar will be presented by Susan Williamson, director of the Division of Nursing Care Facilities, and Keara Klinepeter, special advisor to the Secretary of Health.

To learn more or to register, click here.

Upcoming PHCA Webinar to Highlight Reopening Strategies for Providers
Next Wednesday, September 23 at 2 p.m., PHCA will host Robyn Colajezzi and Mike McGrory from SERVPRO – a PHCA business partner – to walk through current Department of Health orders and requirements for businesses, ‘new normal’ cleaning standards and HVAC considerations, as well las post-pandemic decisions for business owners and back-to-work guidance. Learn more and register below:

Is your business ready to re-open? What you need to know.
1 CEU for SNF, AL and PC
To register, click here.

 

Thursday, September 17, 2020 – 7:13 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 993 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 157 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 147,923.

The Department is reporting notable increases in Allegheny, Centre, Philadelphia and York counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates to share with you today – a great deal happened in both Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. See below:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS announced new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes across the country. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in our PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Providers do not need to check and update their testing on the date CMS releases the data, but should adjust their testing the next time they have “self-scheduled” to check CMS data. Providers should document the scheduled date and time for checking CMS data, which then triggers any needed testing frequency changes for the following week.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time.

We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

CMS Issues New Guidance for Nursing Home Visitation and Reopening
Late this afternoon, CMS issued new guidance for visitation in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new guidance makes clear that visitation can be implemented for more than just end-of-life situations, and visitation may now include physical touching in certain instances. In addition, communal dining and activities may take place as long as six-foot distancing and other precautions are observed.

CMS will also now approve the use of CMP funds to purchase tents for outdoor visitation and/or clear dividers (e.g., Plexiglas or similar products) to create physical barriers to reduce the risk of transmission during in-person visits.

The guidance also outlines directives for “compassionate care situations” that would permit close, in-person visits involving more than just “end-of-life” scenarios:

  • A resident, who was living with their family before recently being admitted to a nursing home, is struggling with the change in environment and lack of physical family support.
  • A resident who is grieving after a friend or family member recently passed away.
  • A resident who needs cueing and encouragement with eating or drinking, previously provided by family and/or caregiver(s), is experiencing weight loss or dehydration.
  • A resident, who used to talk and interact with others, is experiencing emotional distress, seldom speaking, or crying more frequently (when the resident had rarely cried in the past).

We will share additional details with you as soon as it is made available. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.

DOH Provider Call Updates
During today’s provider call, the Department of Health shared several updates with us regarding guidance and next steps on the ‘compassionate caregiver’ program.

According to DOH, the compassionate caregiver program outlined in the guidance released Thursday, September 3 is not a requirement, nor is it a regulation. It should only be considered ‘guidance’. Stay tuned on that.

The Department of Health also suggested that providers should speak with individuals requesting access (as a ‘compassionate caregiver’) in order to develop the appropriate care plans.

Those facilities who refuse to implement the program for an individual resident must document that there is no potential benefit for the resident. Providers must have documentation to show why a request was denied (i.e. facility outbreak, the facility has no cases, working on reopening, etc.).

Next Thursday, September 24 at noon, PHCA will be hosting a webinar with the Department of Health to review the compassionate caregiver program and guidance. To learn more or to register, click here.

In addition, DOH also released PA-HAN 256, which outlines recommendations and considerations for use of COVID-19 antigen point-of-care testing in nursing homes, including when to utilize POC antigen tests, laboratory best practices and preventing errors, reporting requirements for positive and negative results, and considerations for interpreting results.

If you have questions about this new guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes Releases New Recommendations
Late yesterday, the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes – established by the White House in late April – released its recommendations on protections for nursing home residents in the wake of COVID-19 and in preparation for future pandemics or public health emergencies.

The 186-page report identifies 276 recommendations, paired with action steps for CMS; however, the vast majority of these recommendations focus on these key issues:

  • Ongoing supply and affordability dilemmas related to testing, screening, and personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Tension between rigorous infection control measures and quality of life issues that exist in cohorting and visitation policies
  • A call for transparent and accessible communications with residents, their representatives and loved ones, and the public
  • Urgent need to train, support, protect, and respect direct-care provider
  • Outdated infrastructure of many nursing-home facilities
  • Opportunities to create and organize guidance to owners and administrators that is more actionable and to obtain data from nursing homes that is more meaningful for action and research
  • Insufficient funding for quality nursing home operations, workforce performance, and resident safety.

We will keep you posted as these recommendations are considered and will update you if any regulatory changes occur.

AHCA/NCAL to Host Webinar on Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Test Kits
Earlier today, we learned that HHS will be sending 1 million Abbott BinaxNOW™ test kits to skilled nursing facilities and 540,000 test kits to assisted living communities. Distribution is set to begin this week.

Tomorrow – Friday, September 18 – at 12 noon, HHS and Abbot will be participating in a webinar to share more information on the tests themselves, including training and use in assisted living facilities. During the webinar, Abbott will demonstrate the training tools available and representatives from the U.S. government will be online to speak about the program.

To register, click here.

Our understanding is that HHS will ship test kits to all ALs with a CLIA Certificate of Waiver this week. Kits will also be sent to some SNFs for use with staff. Replenishment of kits will be weekly thereafter, with delivery based on the CMS data for COVID-19 test positivity in that county (red, yellow or green). HHS has also provided a training portal here.

 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 776 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 375 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 146,990.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates to share with you today:

Reminder: New U.S. Department of Labor Requirements Go into Effect Today
Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor released an update to the temporary rule they issued in April regarding coronavirus leave, which changed the definition of ‘health care workers’.

According to the temporary rule, the new definition of a health care worker is limited to those providing health care services and those reporting to health care providers. It also includes employees who may not directly interact with patients but provide services that are integrated with and necessary for the provision of patient care, including bathing, dressing, and feeding a patient/resident who cannot perform the activity independently. This includes building maintenance staff, human resources personnel, cooks, food services workers, and records and billing staff.

This rule applies to skilled nursing facilities and AL/PC communities that meet the definitions in the rule, as well as those employers with fewer than 500 employees.

We encourage you to work with your employment counsel to determine whether these leave provisions apply.   

To read more about these new requirements, click here.

PHCA Hosts Virtual Press Conference Highlighting Operational & Financial Challenges
Earlier today, PHCA hosted a virtual press conference – the third in our ‘From the Front Lines’ series of biweekly media updates – to share insights from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes.

Today’s press conference focused on our recently-completed advocacy survey, in which we asked you and your staff about the operational and financial challenges plaguing our sector in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This would not have been possible without your support and efforts, and we thank you for your participation.

We’ll be able to use these results with the media, the legislature and the Wolf administration moving forward.

We’d also like to thank Steve Tack, chief executive officer of Quality Life Services, who participated in today’s press conference. Steve, as always, was a fantastic representative for our association and membership.

To learn more about the survey results, click here. You can watch today’s press conference here.

If you are interested in joining us as a speaker during one of our upcoming media events, please reach out to Shayna Varner, our director of communications, at svarner@phca.org to learn more.

Don’t Miss Tomorrow’s Webinar: Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
Tomorrow afternoon, PHCA will be hosting an important webinar to help providers understand how a proactive crisis management plan can help to mitigate damage and uphold reputation in the midst of communications challenges.

More information is below:

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020 – 5:51 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,151 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 531 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 146,214.

The Department is reporting a notable increase in Centre County. Philadelphia County is reporting a two-day increase of 197 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates to share today:

DOH Provider Call Updates
During today’s provider call, the Department of Health shared quite a few updates with us regarding the continued COVID-19 response.

You’ll recall that just yesterday, the Department released PA HAN 525, which reiterates quarantine guidance for those who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 or are awaiting COVID-19 test results. As a reminder, if the Department of Health or the local health department identifies that someone is a close contact to a person with COVID, the close contact must quarantine for 14 days from the last contact, even if the person remains asymptomatic:

  • A negative test result obtained while a close contact is under quarantine does not release the person from quarantine.
  • Because infection can develop up to 14 days after exposure, persons with negative test results must still quarantine for the full 14 days.
  • Patients being tested for COVID-19 infection must be instructed to isolate at home until results are received.

The Department today indicated it anticipates a new PA HAN will be released, specific to point-of-care testing in nursing homes, later this week. In addition, CMS is also working on a FAQ around QSO and point-of-care testing that is set to be available later this week.

The Department also indicated that for state-required testing of staff and residents, providers may utilize any publicly reported county-level testing positivity data (federal, state or local). When completing testing, providers must document which source is being used and what date the data was checked. Please note: providers may not switch back and forth between sources, i.e. use CMS county-level testing positivity data on 9/21 then use Department of Health data on 10/5. 

We will share additional PA HAN and FAQ documents with you as soon as they are released. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our staff.

Reminder: Federal Funding Deadline for AL/PC Providers EXTENDED Until September 21st
Yesterday, we learned the federal funding application deadline for assisted living and personal care providers has been extended to next Monday, September 21. This extension was welcome but completely unexpected.

For more information or to apply for funding, please visit the Provider Relief Fund webpage or view this tip sheet on keys to successful application submissions. And let us know if you have any questions.

Don’t Miss Thursday’s Webinar: Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
This Thursday, PHCA will be hosting an important webinar to help providers understand how a proactive crisis management plan can help to mitigate damage and uphold reputation in the midst of communications challenges.

More information is below:

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

Federal Judge Rules Governor Wolf State Shutdown Order Unconstitutional
Yes, you read that correctly: yesterday, U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV, based in Pittsburgh, ruled that key components of the governor’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy were unconstitutional, including the decision to temporarily shut down businesses and limit how many Pennsylvanians can gather in one place.

The Wolf administration will file an appeal and seek a stay to temporarily block the decision.

What does this ruling mean for you and long-term care? Not much – yet. But it could certainly alter how the Governor and the Department of Health handle the COVID-19 pandemic moving forward. Stay tuned for more.

 

 

Monday, September 14, 2020 – 6:36 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 620 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 18 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 145,063.

Philadelphia cases are not included in today’s statewide total. Two-day totals for Philadelphia County will be included in tomorrow’s data release.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

There is a great deal of information to share today. See below for some very important updates:

Good News: CMS Withdraws Proposed MFAR Rule
Late this afternoon, CMS announced it would formally withdraw its controversial MFAR rule.

You may remember CMS first announced the Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR) last November. We strongly opposed this rule and sent letters to CMS and Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation outlining the significant challenges this rule would create for skilled nursing providers in today’s fiscal climate.

This is a huge win for our providers. We’ll be sure to share additional information with you as more details become available.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Update to Paid Leave of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued an update to the temporary rule they issued in April regarding coronavirus leave, which updated and changed the definition of health care workers.

According to the temporary rule, the new definition of a health care worker is limited to those providing health care services and those reporting to health care providers. It also includes employees who may not directly interact with patients but provide services that are integrated with and necessary for the provision of patient care bathing, dressing, and feeding a patient/resident who cannot perform the activity independently. This includes building maintenance staff, human resources personnel, cooks, food services workers, and records and billing staff.

This rule applies to skilled nursing facilities and all long-term care facilities which would include IDD and assisted living providers that meet the definitions in the rule, as well as those employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Providers should work with their employment counsel to determine whether these leave provisions apply.   

These new requirements go into effect this Wednesday, September 16. To read more about these new requirements, click here.

Federal Funding Deadline for AL/PC Providers EXTENDED Until September 21st
Earlier today, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – announced the federal funding deadline for assisted living and personal care providers has been extended to next Monday, September 21. AL/PC providers are eligible to apply for the HHS Phase 2 General Distribution round of Provider Relief Funds. This extension was completely unexpected and only applies to AL/PC providers.

For more information or to apply for funding, please visit the Provider Relief Fund webpage or view this tip sheet on keys to successful application submissions. And let us know if you have any questions.

DOH Releases New Guidance for Patients Under Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure, Patients Being Tested for COVID-19
Earlier today, the Department of Health released PA HAN 525, which reiterates quarantine guidance for those who have had close contact with a person with COVID-19 or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.

If the Department of Health or the local health department identifies that someone is a close contact to a person with COVID, the close contact must quarantine for 14 days from the last contact, even if the person remains asymptomatic:

  • A negative test result obtained while a close contact is under quarantine does not release the person from quarantine.
  • Because infection can develop up to 14 days after exposure, persons with negative test results must still quarantine for the full 14 days.
  • Patients being tested for COVID-19 infection must be instructed to isolate at home until results are received.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

AHCA/NCAL Investigates Reported False Positives in COVID-19 Testing
Late last week, AHCA/NCAL received a handful of reports of BD Analyzers producing COVID-19 false positives with staff and residents. AHCA/NCAL is working closely with federal partners to investigate these preliminary reports, determine the extent of the issue, and understand the cause or causes.

If you have had any issues with false-positive test results utilizing the BD point-of-care testing, please complete this short survey about your use of the BD and Quidel point of antigen tests by midnight tomorrow, September 15This will help us better understand the issues surrounding these tests.

In addition, BD has set up dedicated resources for providers experiencing false positives:

  • Those providers who have experienced multiple false positives can call Sara Lewis at (207) 522-7563. Please note: this number will likely change in the next few days.
  • Providers who have experienced multiple false positives can email BD at Technical_Services@bd.com.
  • BD has also developed a microsite and training webinars, which you are encouraged to review if you are having concerns with accuracy to make sure you are properly following all instructions.

We’re being told providers should continue to use these POC tests but are encouraged to follow the CDC guidance and algorithm with details about when to conduct confirmation testing of positive antigen tests.

We’re also being told providers should conduct confirmation testing with PCR tests in other situations not covered by CDC guidance where asymptomatic residents or staff test positive with the antigen tests given the recent reports of false positives.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us.

Don’t Miss Our Thursday Webinar: Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
Next Thursday, PHCA will be hosting an important webinar to help providers understand how a proactive crisis management plan can help to mitigate damage and uphold reputation in the midst of communications challenges.

More information is below:

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Friday, September 11, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,108 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 521 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 142,885.

The Department is reporting a notable increase in cases in Allegheny and Centre counties. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates to share with you as we wrap up another busy week in Harrisburg:

Reminder: CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
As a reminder, CMS released new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes earlier this week. SNF providers can find their community positivity rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

If your county increased in positivity rate and changed to a yellow or red color, you should implement your new testing frequency this week. If your county decreased in positivity and went to a yellow or green color, you must continue to test at last week’s frequency until you have two county reports at that lower positivity rate/color.

Celebrate AL/PC Week with PHCA Starting this Sunday, September 13
This Sunday marks the beginning of AL/PC Week in Pennsylvania and across the country. Early next week, we’ll be reflecting on the hard work and dedication of all the essential caregivers in assisted living and personal care communities across the commonwealth on our Facebook page. So please ‘like’ and follow our page to stay updated!

Last week, Kevin Cysyk – our director of assisted living and personal care – shared a few suggested activities to help your staff and residents celebrate, as well as a digital toolkit with sample social media posts for you to use on Facebook and Twitter. To download our AL/PC Week toolkit, click here

We hope our AL/PC providers will take this opportunity to share photos and videos of unique events and/or highlight resident stories. Use the hashtag #NALW and our PHCA hashtag, #AllinforALPC, on your social media channels.

And as always, thank you for everything you do.

Don’t Miss Next Week’s PHCA Webinar: Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
Next Thursday, PHCA will be hosting an important webinar to help providers understand how a proactive crisis management plan can help to mitigate damage and uphold reputation in the midst of communications challenges.

More information is below:

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

Thursday, September 10, 2020 – 7:09 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 587 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 344 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 141,877.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates to share with you:

DOH Releases New PAHAN, Compassionate Caregiver Program Resources
Earlier today, the Department of Health released a new HAN – PAHAN-524 – which updated interim infection prevention and control recommendations and replaced PA-HAN-497.

It also includes updated language regarding the use of respirators for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, in accordance with the Secretary’s August 18 order.

In addition, DOH posted two new resources to their website related to the ‘compassionate caregiver’ program, which was announced in last week’s guidance. We’ve included these resources below:

During a provider call earlier this week, DOH indicated it would be releasing a FAQ document. We continue to provide additional information and concerns to the department to ensure your questions are addressed.

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff with any questions.

Reminder: Federal Funding Deadline for AL/PC Providers is September 13th
As a reminder, assisted living and personal care providers are eligible to apply for the HHS Phase 2 General Distribution round of Provider Relief Funds. The deadline for the application is this Sunday, September 13, and we do not expect it to be extended.

Like other providers applying for Phase 2 funding, eligible assisted living communities and personal care homes will receive 2 percent of their annual revenue from patient care.

Please visit the Provider Relief Fund webpage for more information or view this tip sheet on keys to successful application submissions. And let us know if you have any questions.

Several BHSL Updates for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, we shared several updates from BHSL with our AL/PC providers regarding the timing of state CARES Act funding, updated reopening guidance and the COVID-19 data reporting tool. Here is a quick update on those issues:

CARES Act funding – These payments are no longer being distributed based on when the application was received; instead, they will be processed in alphabetical order based on the email address of the sender. We’ve been told the first set of checks has been issued, and an updated list of processed payments will be posted to the Act 24 payment website today.

Updated reopening guidance – DHS is finalizing updated reopening guidance for communities, and that should be issued by the end of this week or early next week. We have been advised this updated guidance will include expanded language around the compassionate caregiver program.

COVID-19 data reporting tool –  BHSL continues to work through issues with the new COVID-19 data reporting tool. Given the volume of issues that have been reported, this will likely continue into next week. If you have submitted a concern or reporting issue to RA-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov and have not yet heard back, we’ve been told it is taking a few days to respond. BHSL will be reconciling with the new tracker reports they received up through August 28. When you are granted access to the new website, you should only submit data for days after August 28.

Please reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk if you have any questions or concerns.

Don’t Miss Next Week’s PHCA Webinar: Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19
Next Thursday, PHCA will be hosting an important educational opportunity to help providers understand how a proactive crisis management plan can help to mitigate damage and uphold reputation in the midst of communications challenges.

More information is below:

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 – 5:59 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 931 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 435 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 141,290.

The Department is reporting a notable increase of new cases in Centre County. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several important updates for you today, including a very exciting announcement:

Get Ready for November: It’s Going to be UNCONVENTIONAL!
Earlier today, we officially raised the curtain and launched registration for UNCONVENTIONAL – the 2020 version of the PHCA Annual Convention and Trade Show.

PHCA has transformed our typical week-long, in-person convention into a totally new, totally unconventional experience: a two-week live and on-demand hybrid event that will change the face of PHCA education and networking forever.

We’re bringing together innovators, changemakers, and out-of-the-box thinkers to lead more than 25 sessions – all designed to share best practices and help you succeed today and in the months to come. Additionally, all sessions will be eligible for CEUs.

Be sure to check in at phca.org/unconventional to stay up-to-date on exciting speaker announcements, session descriptions, and more! It all starts Tuesday, November 10.

Significant Updates Following CMS Stakeholder Call, New HHS Announcement
Last night, CMS held a stakeholder call to provide an update on the latest county positivity rates and a number of other federal initiatives.

As you know, the county positivity rate data release has occurred several times over just the last week; however, CMS continues to point to a biweekly release of data on the first and third Monday of each month.

In addition, CMS announced the Department of Health and Human Services will send 750,000 COVID-19 point-of-care tests – the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card tests – beginning next week. These tests are being distributed in addition to previously announced shipments of devices and test materials.

The initial distribution of these devices will prioritize facilities in counties coded red or yellow.

The Abbott devices are being made available to give providers access to a multitude of testing options to meet the new CMS testing requirements for staff.

During last night’s call, CMS emphasized the critical importance of documenting compliance and/or reasons for noncompliance with the testing requirement. As we’ve stated before, documentation will be a key component for these new directives, especially as surveys resume.

Providers have been advised that if nursing facilities have PCR testing relationships established that can return results in 48 hours, providers should use those tests. If results cannot be returned within 48 hours (and are taking much longer), providers should use the point-of-care tests to ensure compliance.

If you have any questions on this, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA staff – we stand ready to help you in any way we can.

As soon as we learn more, we’ll share that information with you.

AHCA/NCAL Hosts Webinar with Additional Details on $2 Billion Incentive Program
Yesterday, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – hosted a webinar to review details on the new value based purchasing incentive program that will be used to pay nursing homes from the next tranche of federal dollars: the previously announced $2 billion Provider Relief Fund.

A few key takeaways to share:

This program began on September 1, and there’s no need to apply. HHS will be distributing funding based on NHSN data, and they’ll be examining two metrics: your number of COVID cases compared to your community, and the mortality rate in your facility.

$500M will be distributed in September, October, November and December (for a total of $2 billion). Each month is a new period, and eligibility one month does not guarantee or preclude eligibility in another month.

We will continue keep you updated on this as we learn more.

DOH Reports Issues With Survey123 Reporting Tool
Beginning last night, the Department of Health experienced issues with the Survey123 reporting tool. According to DOH, these issues have now been resolved, but some ripple effects are still being experienced. Please Let us know if you’re experiencing difficulties, and we will certainly work to address them.

In addition, clearing browsing history and refreshing the browsers are typically most successful in eliminating these ripple effects. If you continue to experience issues, please follow up by emailing RA-dhsnfquestion@pa.gov.

Don’t Miss Tomorrow Morning’s PHCA Webinar: CHC Contracting
Although COVID-19 remains at the top of our priority list, PHCA is offering an important educational opportunity for providers regarding the Community Health Choices (CHC) program in southwest PA.

More information is below:

Renegotiating Community Health Choices Contracts
Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder: all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 – 6:25 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 496 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 51 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 137,662.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

It’s been a busy Tuesday here in Harrisburg. Let’s jump right into a few important updates:

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
Earlier today, CMS announced new county-level testing positivity data for nursing homes. A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

If your county increased in positivity rate and changed to a yellow or red color, you should implement your new testing frequency today. If your county decreased in positivity and went to a yellow or green color, you must continue to test at last week’s frequency until you have two county reports at that lower positivity rate/color.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time.

We’ve compiled these resources for additional information:

DOH Provides Updates on Last Week’s SNF Guidance
During today’s provider call, DOH provided more details on the new guidance issued last week, including changes regarding routine testing, the compassionate caregiver program, entities permitted access to nursing facilities, and the lifting of some restrictions related to reopening and visitation.

With regard to the compassionate caregiver program, DOH shared the goal of this program is different than just ‘visitation’, and it is being introduced as an intervention to help improve a resident’s well-being if two or more significant changes in condition have been documented.

The Department will be developing an FAQ to provide more detail around the provisions outlined in this program, including what constitutes a “significant” change in condition that would necessitate a compassionate caregiver.

DOH noted compassionate caregivers should be required to provide test results at the same frequency as staff based on the CMS positivity rate because of the role they are to play in the resident’s care.

We expect additional clarification in the coming days, and we will share this information with you as soon as it is released.

CMS Releases SNF Quality Reporting Programs Tip Sheet
Earlier today, CMS released its skilled nursing facility COVID-19 Quality Reporting Program tip sheet to help providers understand CMS’ public reporting strategy during COVID-19. This tip sheet outlines the CMS strategy to account for CMS quality data which were exempted from public reporting due to COVID-19, and the impact on CMS’ Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Compare website refreshes.

Reminder: Two New PHCA Webinars Coming Soon!
PHCA is offering two important educational opportunities over the next two weeks. Click the links below to learn more or to register:

Renegotiating Community Health Choices Contracts
Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF
To learn more and to register, click here.

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

All COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Friday, September 4, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

As summer 2020 ‘unofficially’ comes to an end on Monday, we want to wish you a happy, healthy, and safe Labor Day weekend.

But it’s certainly difficult to say that to everyone – it’s why we haven’t used the phrase ‘Enjoy your weekend’ in any of our Daily Updates. Because we know that, for most of our members, there is no weekend or time off – there hasn’t been any semblance of ‘time off’ for quite some time. There’s just time spent caring for residents and ensuring your co-workers and staff members remain safe.

But Labor Day is all about celebrating the American worker – and no one should be celebrated more than you. So whether you’ll be in your facility or community this weekend, or you’re able to take some time away, we want to say ‘thank you’ for everything you’ve done throughout these last few months.

And we’ll be here, over the course of the next three days, if you need anything.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 891 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 279 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 137,662.

Of note: the Department of Health is again reporting notable increases in Philadelphia County. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Here are a few important updates:

AHCA/NCAL to Host Webinar on SNF COVID-19 Performance Payment Program
Yesterday, we shared details on the metrics that will be used to pay nursing homes from the next tranche of federal funding: the previously announced $2 billion Provider Relief Fund. As a reminder, nursing homes are eligible for funding each month, beginning now through December. A total of $500 million will be available each month to SNFs nationwide.

AHCA/NCAL has scheduled a webinar this Tuesday, September 8 from 1-2:30 pm to review the new rule, answer questions, and discuss resources available to help members with this program.

To register, members should log in using their existing AHCA/NCAL username and password. After you log in, you will be able to pre-register.

If you need any assistance registering for this webinar, please email educate@ahca.org.

More on New, Updated Guidance for Nursing Homes from DOH
Yesterday, we shared updated guidance for nursing homes from the Department of Health.

One new provision we’d like to highlight is the ‘compassionate caregiver’, or a family member, friend, volunteer, or other individual identified by a resident, the resident’s family or facility staff to provide that resident with care in your facility.

This is similar to programs implemented in other states, including Indiana, that enable residents to see their loved ones. In this case, if there have been two or more ‘significant changes’ in a resident’s condition/care plan, which could include weight gain or loss, loss of appetite and/or hair loss, a compassionate caregiver would be permitted to enter your facility and help care for your resident.

The compassionate caregivers will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the past seven days. They will also be required to submit to a temperature screening and wear a mask.

With this program comes many, many questions. We have already made our (and your) concerns known to DOH, and we will continue to seek clarification on this new provision (as well as other issues).

As you review this new guidance, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team with questions.

Additionally, while this is specific to nursing homes, we have been advised to prepare our AL/PC members for similar directives in the near future.

Update on CLIA Waivers Following Point-of-Care Testing Device Announcement
Following yesterday’s announcement by HHS regarding the delivery of point-of-care, rapid testing devices to all AL/PC providers, we reached out to BHSL to obtain information on the CLIA certificate of waiver that will ensure AL/PC providers are able to use these machines.
If you are interested in utilizing point-of-care (POC) testing, you can learn more here (simply scroll halfway down to the CLIA section of the page, where you’ll see various forms).

To download the in-state clinical laboratory application, click here.

To download the CLIA application, click here.

If you have any questions about the waiver process, please email them to RA-DHPACLIA@pa.gov.

Please note: when using the point-of-care testing device, you will be required to report COVID-19 test results. If you have questions, please email ra-dhnedss@pa.gov.

Reminder: CMS Releases County-Level Testing Positivity Data for SNFs
A quick reminder for SNF providers: you can find your community positivity rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised.

Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time.

We still anticipate updates to this list on the first and third Mondays of every month, but this is the data you should use for testing this week.

Reminder: Two New PHCA Webinars Coming Soon!
PHCA is offering two important educational opportunities over the next two weeks. Click the links below to learn more or to register:

Renegotiating Community Health Choices Contracts
Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF
To learn more and to register, click here.

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. 
Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

All COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Thursday, September 3, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,160 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 390 cases as compared to yesterday. This represents the largest one-day increase in positive cases since July, and the largest overall daily number we’ve seen in quite some time.

This brings the statewide total to 136,771.

Of note: the Department of Health is reporting notable increases in Allegheny, Philadelphia and York counties.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Today – and just the last few hours – have been occupied with announcements of new guidance and directives from DOH, CMS and HHS.

The update you’re about to read is VERY IMPORTANT, and we’re currently working through many of the questions you’ll likely have regarding these announcements.

Here we go:

DOH Releases New, Updated Guidance for Nursing Homes
This morning, the Department of Health released updated guidance for nursing homes, which achieves some consistency with CMS testing requirements and provides for a few new protocols and guidelines, including ‘compassionate caregivers’, access to facilities for resident advocates, and a revised reopening timeline following a mitigated outbreak.

The order of the sections of this guidance has changed, and other revisions are included in red text.

During committee calls early today, we fielded a number of questions regarding inconsistencies in the guidance, as well as issues that have arisen pertaining to visitation and reopening. We have already made our (and your) concerns known to DOH, and we will continue to seek clarification on your questions.

As you review this new guidance, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team with questions. We’ll be back to you with a further review of what all this means for your operations, and how best to implement it.

CMS Releases New County-Level Testing Positivity Data
Yes, you read that correctly: CMS has already updated their county positivity data, so the spreadsheet we sent you yesterday is now officially ‘outdated’.

You can find your NEW community rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will continue to update you as these rates are revised. Keep in mind that you can click on tabs at the bottom of our spreadsheet to see how your positivity rates have changed over time.

We still anticipate updates to this list on the first and third Mondays of every month, but we’ve been told this is the data you should use for this week.

As of this new data release, the following counties have experienced changes in their positivity rates (from yesterday’s report), and those counties are listed below at their current rate:

  • GREEN COUNTIES: Blair, Carbon, Clearfield, Elk, Erie, Forest, Huntingdon, Indiana, Lycoming, Susquehanna
  • YELLOW COUNTIES: Columbia, Fulton, Montour, Potter
  • RED COUNTIES: Crawford

Please review the list in our spreadsheet so that you can ensure you’re up-to-date on these positivity rates.

As a reminder, the requirement for routine testing of staff depends on the prevalence of COVID-19 in your county, which is based on that positivity rate:

  • GREEN (0% – 4.9%): Once a month
  • YELLOW (5.0% – 10%): Once a week
  • RED (10.1% and above): Twice a week

As always: if you have questions about this new requirement, or you need help with securing testing, please let PHCA know.

HHS Releases Additional Information on Federal Funding for AL/PC Providers & Distribution of $2 Billion in Incentive Payments for SNF Providers
As we shared earlier this week, AL/PC providers will be eligible to apply for CARES Act Provider Relief Funds under the current round of funding. Like other providers applying for this funding, eligible assisted living communities and personal care homes will receive 2% of their annual revenue from patient care and will have until September 13 to begin their application. Please visit the Provider Relief Fund webpage for more information. Operators who did not operate in 2019 are not eligible.

In addition, HHS today announced details on the incentives that will be used to pay nursing homes from the next tranche of federal dollars: the previously announced $2 billion Provider Relief Fund.

SNF providers will not have to apply for the funding. Instead, HHS will measure nursing home performance through required data submissions and distribute funding accordingly.

Providers will be evaluated on two measured outcomes: your ability to keep new COVID infection rates and mortality rates low among residents. HHS said it will measure nursing homes against a baseline level of infection in the community where a given facility is located, but did not specify what would constitute a “low” rate.

As a reminder, nursing homes are eligible for funding each month, beginning now through December. $500 million will be available each month.

We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more about the methodology for these funds.

PHCA Hosts Senator Judy Ward, Representative Curt Sonney During Virtual Press Conference Highlighting Workforce Challenges
Earlier today, PHCA hosted a virtual press conference – the second in our ‘From the Front Lines’ series of biweekly media updates – to share insights from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes.

We discussed some of the key workforce challenges facing our sector, as well as legislation proposed by Senator Judy Ward and Representative Curt Sonney to help you keep your temporary nurse aides and put them on a path toward continued, full-time employment. You can watch today’s press conference here.

Once again, we had several media outlets join us – including national trade publications – and we expect these opportunities to grow.

If you are interested in joining us as a speaker during one of our upcoming media events, please reach out to Shayna Varner, our director of communications, at svarner@phca.org to learn more.

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020 – 7:07 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 770 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 76 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 135,611.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for you, and we’ll start with some good news:

HHS Announces Federal Funding and Testing For Personal Care & Assisted Living
Late last evening, we received confirmation that federal funding and testing equipment is headed to our AL/PC providers. This is a great win for our sector, but more importantly, it provides necessary financial support and critical resources to you at a very important time.

AL/PC providers will be eligible to apply for CARES Act Provider Relief Funds under the current round of funding. Like other providers applying for this funding, eligible assisted living communities and personal care homes will receive 2 percent of their annual revenue from patient care and will have until September 13 to begin their application. Please visit the Provider Relief Fund webpage for more information.

In addition, HHS announced shipments of rapid COVID tests for AL/PC providers. Those are expected to arrive over the next two to three weeks.

As we learn more about these tests and the shipments, we will keep you updated.

Again, this is welcome news for our AL/PC members. We will continue to advocate on your behalf and offer any assistance we can, and we’re happy to help with questions on these two announcements. This was possible due to a great deal of advocacy from our members across the state, as well as the PHCA and AHCA/NCAL teams.

New CMS Testing Requirements Go Into Effect TODAY
As a reminder, the new testing requirements announced by CMS last week will go into effect today, and we want to ensure you know what’s going to be expected of SNFs moving forward.

The requirement for routine testing of staff depends on the prevalence of COVID-19 in your county, which is based on the positivity rate:

  • Green (0% – 4.9%): Once a month
  • Yellow (5.0% – 10%): Once a week
  • Red (10.1% and above): Twice a week

IMPORTANT: You can find your community rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will be alerting our members when the rates are updated (which will most likely be the first and third Monday of every month).

This rule presumes the availability of rapid, point-of-care testing machines and labs with 48-hour turnaround times. Please note: HHS announced today that the federal government’s shipments of COVID-19 point-of-care testing devices to nursing homes should be completed by the end of this week – which means every nursing home will have the ability to conduct rapid testing. 

But if you’re still unable to meet these requirements due to your turnaround times, or testing simply isn’t available, you MUST reach out to the Department of Health at the state and local level and document your attempts to test.

As always: if you have questions about this new requirement, or you need help with securing testing, please let us know.

PHCA to Host Three Upcoming Webinars
PHCA is offering many important educational opportunities throughout the next few weeks. Click the links below to learn more, and take note that our next webinar (tomorrow at 2 pm) will highlight the CMS regulations discussed above:

New CMS Regulations: Testing, Cohorting, Reporting and Enforcement – Thursday, September 3 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

Renegotiating Community Health Choices Contracts – Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF
To learn more and to register, click here.

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. – Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

All COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

 

 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed 770 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 249 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 134,795.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Before we announce some important updates, we want to thank our personal care homes and assisted living communities for completing the mandated universal test for all residents and staff by yesterday’s deadline. We are very proud of each of our members who stepped up to adhere to this mandate.

Both Secretaries for DHS and DOH held a press conference today, in which they thanked their partners (the RRHCPs, labs, health systems, etc.) for helping to meet this deadline. We choose, instead, to thank you for your work.

Just another reason that we couldn’t be more proud to represent you in Harrisburg.

A few important updates for you:

New CMS Testing Requirements Go Into Effect Tomorrow
Tomorrow, the new testing requirements announced by CMS last week will go into effect, and we want to ensure you know what’s going to be expected of SNFs moving forward.

As a reminder, the requirement for routine testing of staff depends on the prevalence of COVID-19 in your county, which is based on the positivity rate:

  • Green (0% – 4.9%): Once a month
  • Yellow (5% – 10%): Once a week
  • Red (10.1% and above): Twice a week

Currently, Perry County has the highest positivity rate in PA at exactly 10%, but that’s still just one round of staff testing per week per this requirement.

And this does apply to staff ONLY at this time. Routine testing of residents is not being required.

IMPORTANT: You can find your community rate here in this PHCA-specific tool, and we will be alerting our members when the rates are updated (which will most likely be the first and third Monday of every month).

Keep in mind that this rule presumes the availability of rapid, point-of-care testing machines and labs with 48-hour turnaround times. If you’re unable to meet these requirements due to your turnaround times, or testing simply isn’t available, you MUST reach out to the Department of Health at the state and local level and document your attempts to test.

In addition to staff testing, there are additional testing ‘triggers’ that are going into effect as well:

  • You must test anyone showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Most, if not all, of our members are currently following this requirement.
  • You must test ALL residents and staff if you experience an ‘outbreak’. An ‘outbreak’ is defined as any single new infection in a staff member or a resident who tests positive after admission. You must then continue to test all residents and staff who tested negative every 3-7 days until there are no new cases for 14 days. This is consistent with current existing guidance.

And with this new requirement comes more documentation. You must document this testing in medical or employee records, and it will vary based on symptomatic residents, the routine testing of staff, and if/when an ‘outbreak’ occurs.

PCR or antigen tests can be used to comply with this new requirement. Antibody tests do not meet the requirement and cannot be used.

Finally, with $2.5 billion in Provider Relief Funding being distributed last week to SNFs, we are recommending those dollars are allocated to complying with this requirement. We will continue to fight at the state level for more dedicated CARES Act funding for testing.

As always: if you have questions about this new requirement, please let us know.

Reminder: PHCA to Host Webinar on CMS Testing, Survey Regulations
Please join us this Thursday, September 3rd at 2 p.m. for a webinar to discuss the CMS guidance described above:

New CMS Regulations: Testing, Cohorting, Reporting and Enforcement – Thursday, September 3 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members.

If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you feel is important for PHCA to offer during this time, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

Gov. Wolf Renews COVID-19 Disaster Declaration: Staffing and Regulatory Waivers to Continue
Late yesterday, Gov. Wolf signed a second renewal of his 90-day disaster declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic, extending many of the staffing, regulatory and administrative waivers granted to long-term care providers back in March. This includes the temporary nurse aide (TNA) training program.

As you know, PHCA has worked very closely with members of the General Assembly to take steps to make temporary nurse aides permanently eligible for the state Nurse Aide Registry.

There are now two bills that have been introduced in the state Senate and House of Representatives. We’re fighting to get those bills passed as soon as possible.

As a reminder, we encourage you to reach out to your local representative and urge them to co-sponsor this legislation in the House. We have nearly twenty co-sponsors on the Senate bill/

By clicking our link, you can input your information and have an email sent directly to your legislator – and it only takes one minute.

Additional Details Available re: DCED Hazard Pay Grant Program
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been working to get more clarity on the distribution process for the DCED Hazard Pay Grant program, next steps for awardees, and opportunities for additional funding.

As we’ve shared before, more than 10,000 applicants – with requests totaling $900 million – submitted to DCED within the two-week application period.

Ultimately, we’ve been told that funding was prioritized to the most high risk, public-facing jobs.

That certainly sounds like long-term care, doesn’t it?

As a reminder, Hazard Pay Grant awardees should have received an email on August 14 with a notice that they had been approved. In addition, DCED analysts have been reaching out to the awardees to review the items in the contract.

If you were notified that you were approved for grant funding, but you have not yet heard from a DCED analyst, please call Ryan Emerson at DCED at 717-720-1422.

Additionally, we’ll continue to fight for more hazard pay for our frontline workers, who are clearly deserving of state and federal funds. We’ll keep you updated on upcoming advocacy efforts.

 

 

Monday, August 31, 2020 – 6 p.m.

Well, it’s the last day of August, and we’re just five days away from the Labor Day holiday, meaning that Summer 2020 is officially coming to an end.

We’re also officially six months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s six months of scouring the globe for PPE. Six months of implementing new testing procedures. Six months of searching for caregivers to keep your residents safe.

But, more importantly, it’s six months of heroism and bravery from those of you on the front lines. And it’s six months of courage from our members, who have truly become the ‘healthcare heroes’ we now reference in the news and on social media.

So six months into this pandemic, we will say to you what we’ve said from the beginning: thank you. And we’ll continue to be here for you, every step of the way.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 521 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 38 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 134,025.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for you as we wrap up August:

New CMS Testing Requirement for Nursing Home Staff to Begin This Week
As we shared last week, CMS has announced new mandatory testing requirements for nursing homes, in addition to the resumption of inspections and new training modules for providers.

Last week, CMS released QSO memo 20-38, which outlines compliance with the new testing guidance. As a reminder, the PHCA team has developed a tracking document to give you a starting point in recording your testing policies and procedures. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this document.

The primary factor that will be used in determining testing frequency is the rate of positivity in your facility’s county. The rates in each county will be posted in a spreadsheet here, week after week. Simply click on the link to download the excel spreadsheet, open the spreadsheet and search for your county.

Your facility will need to monitor these rates and adjust staff testing accordingly. There are, once again, ‘red’, ‘yellow’ and ‘green’ phases that we’ll need to account for – take a look at the spreadsheet to see what we mean.

As a reminder: if the positivity rate is below 5% in your surrounding county, testing will be required once a month. If the positivity rate is between 5% to 10%, testing will be required once a week. And for rates above 10% (Perry County, for instance, is currently right at 10%), testing will be mandated twice a week.

This may seem confusing, but PHCA is here to help you.

We’re working on resources to support you in determining the testing frequency for your facility, and what you’ll be expected to document for CMS (especially as surveys are beginning again). This includes email reminders and an interactive map.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more, but see below for a webinar opportunity related to these new guidelines.

PHCA to Host Webinar on New CMS Testing, Survey Regulations
Please join us this Thursday, September 3rd at 2 p.m. for an important webinar to discuss the CMS guidance:

New CMS Regulations: Testing, Cohorting, Reporting and Enforcement – Thursday, September 3 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members.

If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you feel is important for PHCA to offer during this time, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

HHS Infection Control Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Allocation Terms and Conditions
There has been a great deal of information distributed throughout the past several months related to different provider relief funds issued by the federal government; however, we wanted to bring it to your attention that the terms and conditions associated with the new Infection Control Provider Relief Fund, which was released to accounts on Thursday last week, are different from previous allocation terms and conditions.

These funds can be used for costs associated with:

  • Hiring staff, whether employees or independent contractors, to provide patient care or administrative support;
  • Expenses incurred to improve infection control, including activities such as implementing infection control “mentorship” programs with subject matter experts or changes made to physical facilities;
  • Providing additional services to residents, such as technology that permits residents to connect with their families if the families are not able to visit in person;
  • The Recipient certifies that it will not use the Payment to reimburse expenses or losses that have been reimbursed from other sources or that other sources are obligated to reimburse;
  • Administering testing;
  • and reporting test results.

AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – has recommended that members establish separate accounts for each award for accounting purposes and future reporting to DHHS. Providers are going to have to attest to these different terms and conditions as well.

If you have any questions about this allocation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

 

 

Friday, August 28, 2020 – 5:30 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 835 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 215 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 131,991.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for today:

More Information on New CMS Testing Requirement for Nursing Home Staff
As we shared earlier this week, CMS has announced new mandatory testing requirements for nursing homes, in addition to the resumption of inspections and new training modules for providers.

Yesterday, CMS released QSO memo 20-38, which outlines compliance with the new testing guidance. As a reminder, the PHCA team has developed a tracking document to give you a starting point in recording your testing policies and procedures. Please let us know if you have any questions regarding this document.

As we told you earlier this week, the primary factor that will be used in determining staff testing frequency is the rate of positivity in your facility’s county. The rates in each county will be posted in a spreadsheet here, week after week. Simply click on the link, download the excel spreadsheet, open the spreadsheet and search for your county.

That spreadsheet will be available for download on the CMS website.

Your facility will need to monitor these rates and adjust staff testing accordingly. There are, once again, ‘red’, ‘yellow’ and ‘green’ phases that we’ll need to account for – take a look at the spreadsheet to see what we mean.

Here’s what you’ll need to know: if the positivity rate is below 5% in your surrounding county, testing will be required once a month. If the positivity rate is between 5% to 10%, testing will be required once a week. And for rates above 10% (Perry County, for instance, is currently at 10%), testing will be mandated twice a week.

We’ve also received a recording of an AHCA/NCAL webinar regarding these new testing requirements, which is now available for you to download. To view the webinar, click here and log-in using your username and password. Once the page opens, click on the “View Archived Recording” button on the right-hand side of the page. The presentation will open in a new window for you to view. For questions or support, please email educate@ahca.org.

This is an ongoing regulatory issue, and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more.

PHCA to Host Three Upcoming Webinars
As we look ahead to September, we wanted to let you know that PHCA will offer three important webinars. Click the links below to learn more, and take note that our next webinar (this Thursday) will highlight the CMS regulations discussed above:

New CMS Regulations: Testing, Cohorting, Reporting and Enforcement – Thursday, September 3 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

Renegotiating Community Health Choices Contracts – Thursday, September 10 at 10 a.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF
To learn more and to register, click here.

Crisis Communications Through the Lens of COVID-19 || What to do. What not to do. – Thursday, September 17 at 2 p.m.
1 CEU credit available for SNF and AL/PC
To learn more and to register, click here.

As a reminder, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. If you have any questions or if there’s a particular webinar you’d like to see PHCA offer, please reach out to Wendy Johnson, our director of education.

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation Introduced in the House of Representatives
Several weeks ago, we reached out to you and asked you to help us take action to make our temporary nurse aides permanent caregivers.

As you know, State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), a former nurse, introduced new legislation in the state Senate that would amend state law and provide a path to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the Nurse Aide Registry.

And now, state Representative Curt Sonney (R-Erie) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives to do the same.

We encourage you to reach out to your local representative, urging them to co-sponsor this legislation to put temporary nurse aides on a path to full-time employment. By clicking our link, you can input your information and have an email sent directly to your legislator – and it only takes one minute!

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

 

 

Thursday, August 27, 2020 – 7:09 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 620 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 119 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 131,156.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for today:

Update on Nursing Home CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Distribution
A few weeks ago, we shared with you that the first $2.5 billion (of a $5 billion total allocation from the federal Provider Relief Fund) would be sent to providers soon. Well, that day has arrived.

Earlier today, that $2.5 billion was directed to nursing homes throughout the country. As a reminder, this funding is to be used primarily to support testing efforts, PPE acquisitions and staffing.

These payments are being allocated based on a per-facility payment of $10,000, plus a per-bed payment of approximately $1,450. in this initial distribution.

The remaining $2.5 billion in funding will be distributed throughout the next few months in a variety of vehicles – we’ll keep you updated on those details as we learn more.

Please let us know if you have any questions about this payment. This has been an effort that PHCA and our national organization, AHCA/NCAL, have worked to secure via advocacy and messaging. We’re proud to deliver the assistance our members need and deserve.

CMS Issues Additional Guidance on Staff Testing and Reporting Requirements
Yesterday, we shared that CMS issued an interim final rule with a comment period that revises regulations in several areas for long term care facilities and other providers, namely the frequency of testing residents and staff.

Most of the new regulations are applicable only for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS is providing a 60-day comment period for public input on these requirements.

CMS also released its QSO memo 20-38 which outlines how to comply with new staff testing guidance. The PHCA team has developed a tracking document to give you a starting point to document your policies and procedures.

Please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher if you have any questions.

AHCA/NCAL to Host Member Webinar on New CMS Requirements Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 11 a.m., we invite you to join AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gifford for a webinar on this interim final rule.

We encourage you to tune in to learn what you can do now to successfully comply and implement the new requirements.

This webinar is for AHCA/NCAL facility members only.

To register, click here. If you need assistance, please email educate@ahca.org.

 

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – 6:38 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 501 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 60 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 130,536.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for today:

BHSL Releases New COVID-19 Reporting Tool for AL/PC Providers
This afternoon, BHSL distributed a notice to all AL/PC providers announcing the launch of a new online COVID-19 reporting tool. This reporting tool replaces the COVID-19 tracker that was being sent to BHSL on an as-needed basis.

Please note: only new and active cases, as well as any COVID-related deaths, should be reported. The effective date for this new tool is this Friday, August 28.

Each AL/PC provider should receive two emails with instructions on how to set up your account: the first email will include your username, and the second email will include a temporary password for signing-in. These emails will come from PW Unified Security (ra-unifiedsecurity@pa.gov).

If your community does not receive an email to set up the account, please send an email to RA-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov for assistance or with any questions.

To download the new reporting tool user guide, click here. To download the username/password email samples, click here.

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation to be Introduced in the House of Representatives
Several weeks ago, we reached out to you and asked you to help us take action to make our temporary nurse aides permanent caregivers.

As you know, State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), a former nurse, introduced new legislation in the state Senate that would amend state law and provide a path to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the Nurse Aide Registry.

And in the coming days, State Representative Curt Sonney (R-Erie) will introduce companion legislation in the state House of Representatives to do the same.

We encourage you to reach out to your local representative, urging them to co-sponsor this legislation to put temporary nurse aides on a path to full-time employment. By clicking our link, you can input your information and have an email sent directly to your legislator – and it only takes one minute!

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

Summary of New CMS Reporting and Testing Requirements for Nursing Homes Now Available
As we shared yesterday, CMS issued an interim final rule that establishes a new requirement for COVID-19 testing of SNF residents and staff. CMS did not establish a specific frequency for testing in the rule, but listed potential criteria that will be considered and addressed further in guidance.

Linked here is a high-level summary of this new rule and what it means for you as a SNF provider. We’ll share more information regarding this new rule and the guidance necessary to implement these new requirements as soon as they are made available.

Federal Department of Justice Requests SNF Data from Governor Wolf
Just a few hours ago, the U.S. DOJ sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf, as well as the Governors in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, requesting admission data for the state’s nursing homes. This is in response to the March 18th DOH order that compelled PA SNFs to potentially accept COVID-positive residents.

More to come on this story.

 

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 – 6:40 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 561 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 75 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 130,035.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

There were two important announcements made by CMS in Washington, D.C. earlier today, and we have a summary of those announcements below.

CMS Launches National Training Program to Strengthen Infection Control Practices
First, CMS announced a new national infection control training program aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

You may remember that this program was originally announced in late July as part of an effort to send an additional $5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding to nursing homes across the country. It’s our understanding, however, that participating providers will NOT be eligible for more funding – the two are no longer being linked by CMS. Stay tuned on those details, but that’s the latest information we have.

More about the infection control program: there will be five training modules for SNF staff members, and 10 training modules available for management.

The training for staff is titled “CMS Targeted COVID-19 Training for Frontline Nursing Home Staff” and will address some of the most common concerns recently found by surveyors and government strike teams concerning basic infection control and prevention practices.

The training program for management, called “CMS Targeted COVID-19 Training for Nursing Home Management,” targets infection control and cleanliness, but also larger institution-wide issues such as the implementation of telehealth, emergency preparedness, and vaccine delivery.

These training modules have already been made available. To sign up, click here.

If you are unsure which training module best meets your needs, CMS is offering an online self-assessment tool at www.qioprogram.org. A certificate of completion is offered for each completed training course.

Additionally, CMS and the CDC will have subject matter experts available on bi-weekly webinars starting this Thursday, August 27th through January 7th, 2021, from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m., to answer questions. Registration is required for these Question & Answer sessions. Participants can register on the Zoom webinar registration page.

CMS Implements More COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Nursing Homes
Second, CMS rolled out new rules and requirements for COVID-19 testing in nursing homes, making routine staff testing a requirement for participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Additionally, CMS warned of additional fines for non-compliance, starting at $400 per day and ranging to upwards of $8,000 per day.

Based on today’s announcement, CMS is recommending the frequency of mandated staff testing to be based on the degree of community spread. Guidance regarding the exact frequency will be issued later this week.

But here’s what we’re expecting: if the positivity rate is below 5% in your surrounding county or community, testing will be required once a month. If the positivity rate is between 5% to 10%, testing will be required once a week. And for rates above 10%, testing will be mandated twice a week.

Originally, we believed this positivity rate would be measured on a statewide basis (for the record: PA is currently at 4.8%). It appears, however, that CMS may judge the positivity rate on a more local level.

Additionally, nursing homes must now also provide tests to residents during all outbreaks, as well as when residents show any symptoms of the viral infection.

The good news? CMS also announced potential funding for testing, but the particulars won’t be addressed until later this week.

We’ll share additional information with you as soon as it is made available. We had expected a testing mandate to come from CMS, and that day has finally arrived. Again, more specifics will be shared ASAP.

LAST CALL: Help Us Tell YOUR Story of COVID-19 and Long-Term Care
Today is your last chance to complete this survey and share your experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far. Your answers will help share the story of Pennsylvania’s long-term care staff and residents with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Thank you to those who have shared your experiences so far!

 

 

Monday, August 24, 2020 – 6:09 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 426 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 193 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 129,474.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

RRHCP Statewide Learning Network to Host Two Webinars: PPE Procurement and Distribution, Interpreting Test Results and Cohorting Residents
The RRHCP program will be hosting two webinars this week to provide additional information related to the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and interpreting test results and cohorting residents. See below to register:

Tuesday, August 25 – 4:30 p.m.
Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Procurement and Distribution
To register, click here.

Thursday, August 27 – 4:30 p.m.
How to: Interpreting Results and Cohorting Residents
To register, click here.

When registering for the event, you must fill out the registration information by clicking “Register” on the left side of your screen. Once you have registered successfully, you will receive an email from messenger@webex.com with instructions on how to join the event.

The webinar will be recorded and posted to the “Learning Sessions” section of the Tomorrow’s HealthCare™ Community at www.tomorrowshealthcare.org.

National Webinars on Nursing Home Best Practices Kick Off This Week
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is supporting the national ECHO program and IHI to start a series of webinars on best practices to prevent the spread of COVID. These sessions will have large amount of time devoted to hearing from participants and answering questions. They will then shift into regional small groups of nursing homes to participate in weekly action learning networks. Learn more about this opportunity and register for the three initial sessions here.

Tuesday, August 25 – 1:30 p.m.
Optimizing Clinical Care in the Time of COVID in Skilled Nursing Home Facilities 

Wednesday, August 26 – 1:30 p.m. 
The Latest News on Testing, Cohorting, and Critical Infection Prevention Strategies

Wednesday, September 2 – 1:30 p.m.
Telemedicine in the Time of COVID

Please email COVID19@ahca.org for additional questions, or visit ahcancal.org/coronavirus for more information.

Reminder: PHCA RRHCP Feedback Form
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.
COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: Help Us Tell YOUR Story
Thank you to the dozens of members who have already supported us in our advocacy, and filled out our survey to help us tell YOUR story.

As a reminder, we want to hear about your experience with COVID-19 in your facilities and communities thus far.

We encourage you to take just a few moments to complete this survey and help us share your story with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Answer what you can, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you have any questions, let us know. And thanks, in advance, for your help!

Testing Help? PPE Assistance? Let PHCA Know!
Given recent testing mandates and last week’s mask order from DOH and DHS, we want to be sure you have all the resources you need to test and supply your staff with PPE.

With the development of the RRHCP program and other state resources, please continue to let us know if you’re having difficulty securing PPE or testing supplies. PHCA has preferred lists of vendors, and new partners are emerging every day. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

 

Friday, August 21, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 693 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 98 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 127,633.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Changing the Perception of Long-Term Care: One Day at a Time
Throughout the last few months, we’ve promised to communicate the challenges you face every day in your facilities to the Governor, DOH, DHS, members of the legislature and the general public.

The critical support you need on the front lines – emergency funding, testing, personal protective equipment – is finally being addressed by reporters and media outlets across the state. Frankly, these issues are too important to ignore. And your elected officials are hearing this as well.

Every day this week, we’ve participated in critical interviews. We’re working to get your message out, and to ensure your voice is being heard.

Here is a quick collection of stories we have contributed to over the past week. Special thanks to a few PHCA members who are featured as well:

Again, it’s worth noting that this is just a small sample. We’ll continue to keep our promise to change the perception of long-term care, and we appreciate all that you do, every single day.

Reminder: Approved Respirators Available to Ensure Compliance with DOH Order
The Department of Health issued a new order on Monday, requiring the development and implementation of policies and procedures related to the distribution of personal protective equipment, specifically N95 masks, for direct care workers in long-term care.

According to the order, the respirators distributed by each facility must be National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirators, or if those are not available, respirators approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including those approved through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
For a list of approved respirators, click here.

Your medical supply vendor should be aware of approved items and the RRHCPs in your region should be able to help you procure this now-mandatory PPE as well. In addition, we encourage you to lean on the RRHCPs to assist with the FIT testing required for these respirators. We will continue our calls on the state for support with this order.

Again, we understand that this will be a challenge for some of our members, and we are here to help you.

Please reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our staff if you have any questions. We’re always available to take your call or answer your inquiry.

PHCA to Offer Webinar on Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Following an announcement from CMS earlier this week that the agency would resume routine nursing home inspections, PHCA will be offering a webinar this Tuesday, August 25 at 2 p.m. to discuss this new guidance and potential changes in survey and enforcement in a post-COVID world. See below for more details on our webinar, which will be eligible for CEUs:

The New Normal? – Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Tuesday, August 25 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
1 CEU for SNFs
This webinar is appropriate for the entire interdisciplinary team with an emphasis on administrators, directors of nursing, and social workers.

To learn more or to register for our upcoming webinar, click here.

COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: Help Us Tell YOUR Story
Thank you to the dozens of members who have already supported us in our advocacy, and filled out our survey to help us tell YOUR story.

As a reminder, we want to hear about your experience with COVID-19 in your facilities and communities thus far.

We encourage you to take just a few moments to complete this survey and help us share your story with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Answer what you can, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you have any questions, let us know. And thanks, in advance, for your help!

Reminder: PHCA RRHCP Feedback Form
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

 

 

Thursday, August 20, 2020 – 5:37 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 791 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 221 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 126,940.

According to the Department of Health, today’s data again includes notable increases in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. Allegheny is reporting an increase of 100 cases and Philadelphia is reporting an increase of 109 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Joins Call for Additional Hazard Pay Funding for Frontline Workers
As we shared with you earlier this week, the Department of Community and Economic Development released the list of businesses and health care providers who received funding as part of the hazard pay grant program. And since then, we’ve heard from a number of members regarding how this funding was distributed.

As a reminder, the grant program totaled $50 million; in all, the number of grant applications totaled nearly $900 million.

This funding is critically important, and we can think of no one more deserving of hazard pay than those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic: our workers in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and personal care homes. That’s why we joined with a number of other healthcare associations and organizations to send a joint letter to Governor Wolf, urging his administration to allocate additional funds to the hazard pay program.

We also plan to share our concerns with the General Assembly in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for ways you can get involved.

PHCA to Offer Webinar on Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Following an announcement from CMS earlier this week that the agency would resume routine nursing home inspections, PHCA will be offering a webinar this Tuesday, August 25 at 2 p.m. to discuss this new guidance and potential changes in survey and enforcement in a post-COVID world.

See below for more details on our webinar, which will be eligible for CEUs:

The New Normal? – Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Tuesday, August 25 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
1 CEU for SNFs
This webinar is appropriate for the entire interdisciplinary team with an emphasis on administrators, directors of nursing, and social workers.

To learn more or to register for our upcoming webinar, click here.

COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: Help Us Tell YOUR Story
Thank you to the dozens of members who have already supported us in our advocacy, and filled out our survey to help us tell YOUR story.

As a reminder, we want to hear about your experience with COVID-19 in your facilities and communities thus far.

We encourage you to take just a few moments to complete this survey and help us share your story with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Answer what you can, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you have any questions, let us know. And thanks, in advance, for your help!

Reminder: PHCA RRHCP Feedback Form
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

CDC Interim Guidance on Rapid Antigen Tests
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new interim guidance on rapid antigen testing for COVID-19. The key points that you should be aware of include:

  • The two rapid antigen tests on the market (BD Veritor and Quidel Sofia2, which are being sent to all nursing homes by CMS) are currently intended for use in diagnostic testing of symptomatic patients within five days of symptom onset.
  • Through this new guidance, CDC expands use of these rapid antigen tests to include use as screening tool in congregate settings (such as a nursing home) for staff and residents.
  • All long term care facilities must defer to state or local guidance on their use.
  • Evaluating the test results must be done in context with the person’s symptoms and how likely COVID-19 is in the group of people getting the tests, which is usually similar to the community’s rate of COVID-19.
  • Providers who are utilizing these antigen test devices must undergo proper training and be able to demonstrate competency and completion.

It’s very important that providers who are utilizing the point of care antigen test device understand this new CDC guidance. Our national organization, AHCA/NCAL, has developed a more comprehensive summary here that members can utilize.

AHCA/NCAL has also added information on how to access training for both antigen devices (BD Veritor and Quidel Sofia2) to its summary of important steps providers must take in preparing to use these testing devices.

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020 – 7:02 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 570 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 165 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 126,149.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Hosts Virtual Press Conference to Kick Off Series of LTC Updates
Earlier today, we hosted our first in a series of biweekly media updates to share insights from the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes.

We discussed the urgent needs of providers throughout the state, with a focus on the challenges surrounding testing of residents and staff.

Special thanks to Meredith Mills, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Country Meadows Retirement Communities, who joined me to share some of her first-hand experiences.

We had several media outlets from across the state join us as well, and we expect these opportunities to grow as we convene experts and providers to share the latest news from the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

If you are interested in participating in one of our upcoming media events, please reach out to Shayna Varner, our director of communications, at svarner@phca.org to learn more.

PHCA to Offer Webinar on Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Following an announcement from CMS earlier this week that the agency would resume routine nursing home inspections, PHCA will be offering a webinar next Tuesday, August 25 at 2 p.m. to discuss this new guidance and potential changes in survey and enforcement in a post-COVID world.

See below for more details on our webinar, which will be eligible for CEUs:

The New Normal? – Changes in Survey and Enforcement
Tuesday, August 25 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
1 CEU for SNFs
This webinar is appropriate for the entire interdisciplinary team with an emphasis on administrators, directors of nursing and social workers.

To learn more or to register for our upcoming webinar, click here.

COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: Help Us Tell YOUR Story
Thank you to the dozens of members who have already supported us in our advocacy, and filled out our survey to help us tell YOUR story.

As a reminder, we want to hear about your experience with COVID-19 in your facilities and communities thus far.

We encourage you to take just a few moments to complete this survey and help us share your story with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Answer what you can, and we’ll take care of the rest.

If you have any questions, let us know. And thanks, in advance, for your help!

Reminder: PHCA Launches RRHCP Feedback Form
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

 

 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020 – 6:08 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 735 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 351 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 125,579.

Today’s total count includes numbers from Philadelphia County (yesterday’s count did not) – hence the big increase.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: Help Us Tell YOUR Story
Though it might seem like a lifetime ago, Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly directed nearly $300 million in funding to our nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes through the federal CARES Act at the very end of June. While this funding certainly has helped members take steps to address increased costs and keep pace with skyrocketing expenses, our advocacy for more funding and support will not end. In fact, it’s now more important than ever to continue sharing our message.

To be successful in this advocacy, we’ll need your help and input. We want to hear about your experience with COVID-19 in your facilities and communities thus far.

We encourage you to take just a few moments to complete this survey and help us share your story with the Wolf Administration, the members of the legislature and the general public.

Answer what you can, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Your response will remain anonymous, but we plan to use the results of this survey as part of our advocacy efforts moving forward.

Any questions, let us know. Thanks!

Request a Mail-In Ballot for 2020 General Election Today
With less than 90 days until the General Election, it will now be easier than ever for your staff and residents to remain politically engaged. Pennsylvania will be using a “vote by mail” process for the upcoming election, and any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot – you may request this ballot without a reason. To learn more about mail-in voting, click here.

As a reminder: mail-in and absentee ballot applications for the November 3rd election must be received by your county election office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27th

Again, please don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any questions.

Reminder: PHCA Launches RRHCP Feedback Form
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Project ECHO
Late yesterday, PHCA received word that the federal HHS would allow nursing homes to qualify for federal funding if they voluntarily participate in ‘Project ECHO’, which is being developed with funding from the Agency of Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ). You may have heard about this project already, as ECHO teams plan to start recruiting nursing homes this week.

The program is likely set to launch in early September and will include virtual Zoom meetings, an infection control ‘boot camp’ and other sessions to help facilities mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Nursing homes will likely be contacted by health system ‘hubs’, asking for support and involvement. As we learn more, we will let you know.

 

 

Monday, August 17 ,2020 – 6:22 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 384 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 284 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 124,844.

Why such a low number? Philadelphia cases are not actually included in today’s statewide total (due to reporting delays), so those cases will be included in tomorrow’s numbers.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few VERY important updates, as today was a busy day in Harrisburg and Washington, DC:

CMS to Resume Routine Nursing Home Inspections After COVID Suspension
Just before we pressed send on today’s update, CMS announced that routine inspections for all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers will resume, after suspending their inspections as part of the response to COVID-19.

The agency directed the resumption of onsite revisit surveys, non-immediate jeopardy complaint surveys and annual recertification surveys as soon as resources are available in guidance released this afternoon.

This is new information from CMS, and we will keep you updated as we learn more.

If you listened to Administrator Verma’s nationwide nursing home call last Thursday, today’s announcement is not too surprising. That call truly served as a cautionary reminder to providers about infection control protocols and procedures, and now CMS will be reinstituting their inspection process.

DOH Issues New Order Mandating Distribution of PPE to Staff Providing Direct Care to COVID-19 Positive Residents in SNFs, AL and PC
Just a few hours ago, the Department of Health posted a new order to the Message Board requiring all nursing facilities, assisted living communities, and personal care homes to develop, implement and adhere to policies and procedures to procure and distribute PPE to staff providing direct care to COVID-19 positive residents. This order goes into effect (technically) tonight at midnight, but the compliance date is actually next Thursday, August 27th.

We know many providers have already developed and implemented these policies and procedures; however, this new order requires the distribution of respirators, such as N95 masks, to staff providing direct patient care to residents who are or are suspected of being COVID-19 positive and to staff assigned to provide direct patient care in COVID-19 units.

Additionally, according to the order, a respirator must be given to staff before the beginning of the staff member’s shift, and the respirator must be replaced if the facility is notified by a staff member that their mask has become soiled, damaged or otherwise ineffective.

And here’s a key difference that makes today’s order a potential concern for providers:

The respirators distributed by each facility must be National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved respirators, or if those are not available, respirators approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including those approved through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This replaces a HAN from just 10 days ago, in which facemasks were deemed as an ‘acceptable’ alternative. It appears as though this is no longer the case, according to this order.

For a list of approved respirators, click here.

Additionally, your Medical Supply Vendor should be aware of approved items and the RRHCPs in your region should be able to help you procure this now-mandatory PPE. We will be calling on the state for support with this order.

Again, we understand that this will be a challenge for some of our members, and we are here to help you.

Please reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our staff if you have any questions. We’re always available to take your call or answer your inquiry.

DCED Announces Hazard Pay Grant Funding Awardees
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development released its list of the businesses and healthcare providers who received funding as part of its hazard pay grant program.

As a reminder, the grant program totaled $50 million; in all, the number of grant applications totaled nearly $900 million.

As we’ve analyzed the list, it is apparent that many PHCA members received the grant (that’s good news). However, there are also many members that applied but were not included in this list (that’s certainly bad news).

We’ve been told these funds were distributed after considering a number of factors (in addition to your application), including the number of dollars requested within each industry category, the risk level (in accordance with the OSHA Worker Exposure Risk), wage level of industries and occupations and availability of other federal funding relief opportunities.

Governor Wolf has announced that he is open to working with the state legislature to allocate additional federal dollars toward hazard pay for affected workers and industries, and we will be leading that charge on behalf of the workers we represent.

We’ll continue to update you as we learn more.

PHCA Launches RRHCP Feedback Form, Update on Agreements
Since the inception of the RRHCP program, PHCA members have raised issues related to the agreements, or contracts, that were being sent to facilities by the various health systems throughout the state.

Last week, we formally recommended that you do not sign these contracts until we receive further guidance/direction from DHS. Since then, we have learned from DHS that these contracts should be considered null and void until they are able to reassess these contracts and have further discussions with the health system providers selected to support the RRHCP program.

Additionally: as we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

I can’t stress the importance of this feedback form enough. It should be used to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help us identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Project ECHO to Host Webinar Series: Lessons Learned in Implementing Telehealth During COVID-19
Project ECHO at Penn State, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center (AHEC) is offering a no-cost educational series sharing Lessons Learned in Implementing Telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

This CME-eligible series will launch on September 9, 2020 and will include six one-hour sessions held every other Wednesday at 4:00 p.m., concluding November 18, 2020.

To register, click here.

 

 

Friday, August 14, 2020 – 5:29 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 829 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 162 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 122,950.

Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 147 new cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

CMS Announces $15 Million in Fines, Tripling of Citations During COVID-19
This afternoon, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it has levied more than $15 million in fines and tripled the most severe type of citations to nursing homes during the six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country, more than 3,400 nursing homes have been cited for noncompliance with infection control requirements or failure to report COVID-19 data.

During yesterday’s call with CMS Administrator Seema Verma, she reiterated the importance of infection control protocols, especially as numbers continue to increase in nursing homes across the country.

We encourage you to continue educating and re-educating staff on all infection control protocols and policies in place in your facility. And if you need help implementing those protocols, please let us know.

If you have any questions or need additional resources, don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman on our staff.

U.S. Senators Casey, Toomey Send Letter to Federal Government re: Nursing Homes
Yesterday, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators, Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R), sent a joint letter to federal health agencies encouraging them to bolster efforts to protect residents and workers in nursing homes, and to ensure nursing homes have the assistance they need to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the letter, Senators Casey and Toomey asked federal agencies to:

  • provide individualized, facility-specific technical assistance;
  • provide monthly updates on infection control surveys and outcomes;
  • perform analysis of nursing homes with larger outbreaks;
  • review all nursing home regulations and seek stakeholder input; and
  • improve coordination among CDC, CMS, and states for nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases and deaths.

We appreciate the ongoing support from Senators Casey and Toomey, and we look forward to continuing our work with them to ensure our members have the support and resources they need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Clarification: Only AL/PC Providers Must Report Reopening Efforts
In yesterday’s daily update, we reminded you to be sure to alert your regional office if you are planning to re-open, the timeframe in which you plan to begin visitation, and which step you’ve reached as it relates to the visitation guidance issued by the Department of Health and/or the Department of Human Services.

We learned today that, as of now, only AL/PC providers are required to notify DHS of these steps toward reopening. This is not a requirement for SNFs and DOH.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

New PHCA, RRHCP Feedback Form to Launch on Monday
As we continue to field questions and concerns regarding the new RRHCP program, we’ve developed a feedback form to help better understand and communicate the challenges you’re facing on the front lines.

On Monday, keep an eye out for a new feedback form to help you document your experience if/when you request support from your local RRHCP. Your responses will help PHCA identify widespread challenges and/or failures that may exist within the program, and they will give us the information necessary to address your concerns and ensure you receive the support you deserve.

 

 

Thursday, August 13, 2020 – 7:13 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 991 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 142 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 122,121.

Today’s data, once again, shows a significant number of new cases in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. Allegheny is reporting an increase of 114 cases and Philadelphia is reporting an increase of 192 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Reminder: Providers Must Report Reopening Efforts to DOH, DHS
To date, we’ve learned that 186 assisted living communities and personal care homes across the state have taken the initial steps toward reopening visitation for residents and their loved ones.

It’s worth noting: that’s 186 out of nearly 1,200 communities statewide.

We are collecting data on nursing homes, and hope to have those numbers soon.

As a reminder, the state has mandated that facility leadership must alert their regional office if they are planning to re-open, the timeframe in which they plan to begin visitation, and at which step they’ve reached as it relates to the visitation guidance issued by the Department of Health and/or the Department of Human Services.

PHCA has an upcoming meeting with DHS to discuss visitation, and how we can make this process work for our members.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Update from National Nursing Home Call with CMS Administrator Seema Verma
This afternoon, CMS Administrator Seema Verma held a call with nursing home providers across the country to share her growing concerns regarding the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases, the potential impact of those cases in our nursing homes, and the challenges providers continue to face, including PPE shortages and ongoing issues with testing.

During the call, Administrator Verma announced a new federal infection control training module that is set to be released in the coming weeks. Additionally, CMS will be holding a call with the nation’s governors on Monday, urging them to continue providing support to nursing homes.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more about that training module.

Update from Call with AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson
This afternoon, Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – hosted a membership-wide call to discuss the recent federal funding distribution.

The archived recording of this call can be found here. To access the recording, log in to your AHCA/NCAL account using your username and password. After the page opens, you must register for the call (if you have not already done so). After registering, click View Archived Recording button on the right-hand side of the page.

The presentation will open in a new window. Handouts are also available for download.

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 – 6:28 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 849 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 21 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 121,130.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DHS Provides Update Regarding CARES Act Funding for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, DHS released additional information regarding the Act 24 Payments website and an update regarding CARES Act funding for assisted living communities and personal care homes:

Act 24 Non-MA Provider Funding Status Report:
This report will be updated each Friday, and payments that have been processed by OLTL will be listed with their status. Facilities will only be listed once OLTL has processed their payment.

If your facility is not listed on the website, there is no need to resubmit your Facility Acceptance Form; unfortunately, these payments will just take time. We know DHS is processing the Facility Acceptance Forms, and staff will contact you if there are any errors or questions.

Facility Acceptance Form:
We’ve shared with our AL/PC membership that those forms needed to be submitted for each licensed entity in order to claim funds. If you submitted the form and have not received an error message, DHS has received it.

If you are an AL/PC provider, and you have questions/concerns regarding this payment or the acceptance form, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

Reminder: Upcoming RRHCP Calls for PHCA Members This Week
We have three more introductory meetings with the Regional Response Health Collaboration Programs (RRCHPs) scheduled for tomorrow and Friday.

As a reminder, these meetings are vital for nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities, as this is our chance to share our experiences and inform the RRHCPs where help is needed most. Whether it’s testing, PPE, staffing or infection control protocols, the RRHCPs were created to help us.

The meetings that have been scheduled are:

Geisinger Clinic: August 13th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m. 

The Geisinger Clinic RRHCP covers the following counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming, Bradford, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union.

Lehigh Valley Health Network: August 13th from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The LVHN covers the following counties: Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton and Pike.

Penn State Health: August 14th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m. 

The Penn State Health RRHCP covers the following counties:  Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry and York.

If you have a facility in these counties, you should have received an invitation to join us. If not, please let me know, and we’ll ensure you have a seat at the table.

Please keep in mind: this is a PHCA member benefit, and only PHCA members are able to join.

Federal Stimulus Package Update

We want to ensure you’re up-to-date on the next federal stimulus package, and what that might mean for our membership.

In short, talks hit a roadblock in Washington, D.C. late last week. Republicans and Democrats couldn’t find common ground on the next stimulus legislation, and President Trump moved forward with an Executive Order, which addressed (among other things) an extension of the unemployment compensation payment increase.

This is certainly concerning for long-term care providers, as we are fighting for more federal funding, as well as much-needed liability protections, in this next stimulus. We have been very vocal on the issue, and we will continue to share our message until a stimulus is finalized.

HHS Updates FAQs with Medicaid, Cost Report and CHOW Information
Late yesterday, HHS released a new FAQ updating its terminology describing various allocations and added FAQs on the availability of Medicaid awards, the availability of Phase 2 general distribution funding and an update on Change of Ownership (CHOW). To learn more, click here.

The HHS CARES Provider Relief Fund online portal for Medicaid, CHOW, Phase 1 and Phase 2 – General Distribution awardees who missed the June 3 cut off for additional funding is up but still is not active. We will provide an update as soon as the portal is operational.

 

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020 – 7:41 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 828 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 227 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 120,281.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Continues Call to Address Testing Challenges for Pennsylvania’s Long-Term Care Providers
Earlier today, and just 20 days before the AL/PC testing deadline on August 31st, PHCA testified before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Democratic Policy Committee to highlight continued COVID-19 testing challenges for Pennsylvania’s long-term care providers.

For months, we have advocated for the critical resources necessary to expand and prioritize testing for your residents and staff. Multiple states across the country have already funded testing in long-term care, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Rhode Island and West Virginia. Today, we asked committee members one simple question: Why have Pennsylvania’s more 2,000 long-term care providers, their residents and caregivers not been prioritized for testing funding, resources and supplies?

You can read our testimony here. Or you can watch today’s hearing here – our testimony begins at 1:38:00.

We shared this message with media across the state and we look forward to continued advocacy in the coming weeks. If there are any points you’d like us to make as part of these ongoing conversations, please let us know – we’d love to hear from you.

Update on Distribution of AL/PC CARES Act Funding
For our AL/PC providers: DHS has started to report the status of CARES Act (Act 24) payments. As a reminder, these payments are only for non-MA providers.

To check the status of your payment, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/providers/Providers/Pages/Long-Term-Care-Providers and click Act 24 Non-MA Provider Payment Status.

This list includes only those payments that have been processed, and will be updated each week. We encourage you to check this list weekly to obtain the status of your payment.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

HHS Opens CHOW Portal
Late last night, HHS announced that all providers who underwent a Change of Ownership (CHOW) and those providers who missed the June 3, 2020 deadline to apply for additional funding equal to 2% of their total patient care revenue from the $20 billion portion of the $50 billion Phase 1 General Distribution may now submit their application for possible funds via the HHS CARES Provider Relief Fund online portal.

The deadline for submitting the application is August 28, 2020. This deadline aligns with the extended deadline for other eligible Phase 2 providers.

Reminder: AHCA/NCAL Membership Call this Thursday
This Thursday, August 13 at 3 p.m., AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson will be hosting a call to provide details on upcoming COVID-relief distribution. As we’ve shared with you over the last few days, an additional $5 billion is headed to SNFs across the country in the coming months.

This call is for AHCA/NCAL members only, and attendees are required to pre-register here

Members can log in using their existing AHCA/NCAL username and password. You will be able to register once you are logged in to the website. Please email educate@ahca.org for additional assistance.

 

 

Monday, August 10, 2020 – 6:44 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 601 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 159 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 119,453.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Additional $5 Billion Allocated for SNFs: What YOU Need to Know
Late Friday evening, you likely received an email from AHCA/NCAL President Mark Parkinson regarding an update on the next $5 billion tranche for nursing homes across the country.

While this could very well change when actual details are released, we wanted to share this good news with you:

There will be another $5 billion distributed to nursing homes across the country.

Of this $5 billion, $2.5 billion will be immediately distributed – there’s no application process and checks should hit your account sometime in the next 10-14 days. This funding is intended to cover the costs of PPE, testing, and staffing.

An additional $2 billion will be distributed via a value-based purchasing program over the next several months. As of now, this funding formula will take into account your facility’s average COVID case counts versus other facilities in your community. The average payment will likely land around $70,000. HHS will not penalize you if your facility has taken the appropriate steps to accept COVID-positive patients.

An additional $250 million will likely go to facilities that have created or established COVID-specific wings or floors. We don’t know at this time whether those payments will be retroactive.

The remaining $250 million will likely go to facilities that are working with outside groups or consultants to help mitigate COVID-19. That payment structure is unclear and we truly don’t know what it means for providers at this time. We expect additional details to follow.

AHCA/NCAL continues to fight for ‘hotspot’ funding, which is very necessary here in Pennsylvania. There may be an opportunity to do that in the upcoming federal stimulus bill.

More funding is certainly good news, and we’ll continue to update you as we learn more.

This Thursday, August 13 at 3 p.m., Mark Parkinson will be hosting an all-member call to provide additional details on this upcoming COVID-relief distribution.

This call is for AHCA/NCAL members only, and attendees are required to pre-register here

Members can log in using their existing AHCA/NCAL username and password. You will be able to register once you are logged in to the website. Please email educate@ahca.org for additional assistance.

AHCA/NCAL Announces 2020 Quality Award Winners
PHCA is proud to recognize and congratulate our 23 members who have been honored as part of this year’s AHCA/NCAL National Quality Awards. This is a truly remarkable achievement that required hard work, unwavering dedication, and determination of each recipient – especially in the wake of an unprecedented COVID-19 response.

Pennsylvania has 19 bronze award winners and four silver award winners.

Congratulations to each of you on this tremendous accomplishment! We look forward to celebrating with you in the coming weeks, and we’ll be announcing those facilities shortly.

CMS Announces Nursing Home Stakeholder Calls for August
This afternoon, CMS announced its August stakeholder calls for nursing homes. These calls provide targeted updates on the agency’s latest COVID-19 guidance and offer attendees an opportunity to ask questions of CMS and other subject matter experts.

Wednesday, August 12th – 4:30 p.m.
Toll-Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 7857618
To join the audio webcast, click here.

Wednesday, August 26th – 4:30 p.m.
Toll-Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820; Access Passcode: 5718509
To join the audio webcast, click here.

Reminder: PHCA to Testify During House Democratic Policy Committee Public Hearing on COVID-19 Testing Challenges
As we shared last week, we have been invited to testify before the state House of Representatives tomorrow, and the focus will be testing: funding, turnaround times, capacity, and partnerships with the state.

The House Democratic Policy Committee’s public hearing on testing challenges is set to begin at 2 p.m., and our panel should commence at 3:20 p.m. – you can watch live here.

 

 

Friday, August 7, 2020 – 6:18 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 758 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 49 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 117,279.

As of yesterday (August 6), PA has experienced a seven-day case increase of 5,016 positive cases. The previous seven-day increase was 6,228 – so new cases decreased in the last week by 1,252. Hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We have several updates for you as we wrap up the week:

Update on CARES Act Funding and Testing for AL/PC Providers
We have been informed by DHS that there have been delays in processing CARES Act funding for AL/PC providers, primarily due to some discrepancies on the submissions. It is now likely that no checks will be mailed out before August 15, and the first checks will be sent to those providers with no discrepancies. DHS will be reaching out to those with discrepancies in their submissions to correct the data.

Through conversations with our AL/PC membership, we have learned that many providers are waiting on the CARES Act funding before taking steps to complete the mandated universal, baseline testing for residents and staff. Given this payment delay, we strongly encourage all providers to move forward with testing as soon as possible in order to meet the August 31 deadline.

Additionally, we’ve been warned that daily fines will be imposed for non-compliance with the testing deadline.

We encourage any providers who are having trouble with testing to utilize the universal testing form…you should send an email to ra-dhCOVIDtesting@pa.gov. You will receive an autoreply with a link to a form to request support, including supplies, from DOH. Please note: this form must be completed in its entirety before the RHHCP for your region will be contacted to provide additional assistance.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Kevin Cysyk on our team.

DOH Releases Updated Infection Prevention and Control Guidance in PAHAN-520
Earlier today, the Department of Health released PAHAN-520, providing comprehensive guidance for infection prevention and control for COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
This guidance has been updated based on currently available information, and replaces PA-HAN-497. If you have questions about this guidance, please contact DOH at 877-724-3258 or your local health department.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the PHCA staff if you have any concerns.

PHCA to Testify During House Democratic Policy Committee Public Hearing on COVID-19 Testing Challenges
As we shared earlier this week, we have been invited to testify before the state House of Representatives next week, and the focus will be testing: funding, turnaround times, capacity, and partnerships with the state. If there are any points you’d like us to make during that testimony, please let us know.

The House Democratic Policy Committee’s public hearing on testing challenges is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11. Our panel is set to begin at 3:20 p.m. – you can watch live here.

CMS Clarifies National COVID-19 Training for Additional Funding
When President Donald Trump announced an additional $5 billion for nursing homes across the country a few weeks ago, CMS clarified that the funding would be contingent on a COVID-19 training module.

Earlier today, CMS shared with AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – that the training module is being developed, and will not be available for some time (most likely in September).

We’ll share more information with you as soon as the details are finalized, but please know that this additional funding will require some sort of multi-step online training.

PHCA/HPSI COVID-19 PPE Portal Now Available
PHCA and HPSI Purchasing Services (a platinum sponsor of ours) have created a new COVID-19 PPE Request Portal to help you easily submit requests for PPE supplies, provide supply chain feedback and request additional information about COVID-related services.

Once a request is made, HPSI Purchasing Services will reach out and connect you with their supplier network and get to work sourcing your requested supplies.

 

 

Thursday, August 6, 2020 – 7:14 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 807 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 102 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 116,521.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Before we launch into today’s daily update, it is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of our longtime general counsel and PHCA advisor Mark Van Blargan.

Our thoughts are with Mark’s family during this time, and the PHCA team here in Harrisburg will miss him greatly.

While Mark worked closely with the members of our PHCA Board, he was a fixture at various events – and he never missed an opportunity to say ‘hello’, tell a joke or flash a smile. If you had the chance to meet Mark, you’d never forget him.

This is a tremendous loss for the Van Blargan family, the central Pennsylvania community and for our membership. Once again, Mark will be missed

A few quick updates for you:

RRHCP Agreements Being Sent to SNF and AL/PC Providers
Over the last two days, PHCA members have raised the issue of Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP) agreements, or contracts, that were being sent to facilities by the various health systems throughout the state.

We’ve looked at these agreements, and each contains different provisions and stipulations. However, all seem to thrust complete liability and responsibility on to you and your facilities. A few contracts even stipulate that our facilities will pay for any staffing, PPE or testing supplies – which, given the amount of CARES Act funding the health systems received, is unacceptable.

For the time being, PHCA is formally recommending you do not sign these contracts until there is further guidance/direction from DHS. Additionally, we will be engaging in dialogue with other stakeholders to talk through this RRHCP program and express our immediate concerns.

For those who have already signed and submitted contracts – that’s perfectly fine. For those who haven’t, we’d suggest you have legal counsel review it, but please hang onto it for now.

We’re hopeful we will receive some clearer guidance in the next 24 hours from DHS on these contracts and the RRHCPs in general.

Update from DCED on Hazard Pay Grant Program
A few weeks ago, we shared information regarding the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This included long-term care providers, and we were thrilled to see that so many of our members across the state applied.

Today, we learned from DCED that their original time frame (eligibility was to be announced this Monday, August 10th) was not going to be met. DCED received 10,000+ applications from health care providers, food services, sanitation companies and other essential business sectors.

Grant requests totaled nearly $900 million; the program is, for now, capped at $50 million. DCED is trying to determine how to award the dollars, given the high demand. They are now hoping to notify applicants by August 16.

We will be sure to update you as we learn more.

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) Co-Sponsors SAFE TO WORK Act
Once again, your advocacy has yielded results.

Earlier today, we learned Senator Pat Toomey officially agreed to co-sponsor the SAFE TO WORK Act (S. 4317) in Washington, D.C.

This legislation would provide reasonable, temporary, and limited liability protection to businesses, schools, and most importantly for us: healthcare providers. This protection would allow those who are already taking precautions to ensure everyone’s safety to focus their resources on their recovery, rather than on the extensive litigation costs that can accompany frivolous lawsuits.

This is a direct result of town halls we’ve conducted, letters we’ve sent and phone calls we’ve made. Thank you for all your help, and we’ve offered to work with Senator Toomey’s office to ensure liability protections are included in the next federal stimulus bill.

 

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020 – 6:35 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 705 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 149 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 115,714.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for you:

DHS Reminds AL/PC Providers Universal Testing Required by Monday, August 31
This morning, the Department of Human Services reached out to all AL/PC providers to remind them about the universal testing mandate, which requires all residents and staff to be tested by no later than Monday, August 31.

If you need assistance completing this testing, please click here to send a request to the designated resource account.

After receiving test results, we encourage you to immediately enter those results into this Long-Term Care Facility Universal Testing form.

If you have any questions, please reach out to DHS directly by clicking here.

Additionally, PHCA will be testifying before the state House of Representatives next week, and the focus will be testing: funding, turnaround times, capacity, and partnerships with the state. If there are any points you’d like us to make during that testimony, please let me know.

Additional Dementia Care Resources Available
During yesterday’s RRHCP member call with LECOM Health (for northwest PA providers), a question was asked about additional resources or best practices for residents with dementia during COVID-19.

We have identified supplemental resources that may help you care for any residents suffering from dementia: Tips for Dementia Caregivers in Long-Term or Community-Based Settings from the Alzheimer’s Association, and Managing Dementia-related Behaviors While Sheltering in Place from UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Fisher on our staff if you have additional questions.

Reminder: Additional Introductory RRHCP Meetings Scheduled for August
As we shared yesterday, PHCA has scheduled two more introductory meetings with the various Regional Response Health Collaboration Programs (RRCHPs) throughout the state.

These meetings are vital for nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities, as this is our chance to share our experiences and inform the RRHCPs where help is needed most. Whether it’s testing, PPE, staffing or infection control protocols, the RRHCPs were created to help us.

The two additional meetings that have been scheduled are:

Geisinger Clinic: August 13th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m. 
The Geisinger Clinic RRHCP covers the following counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming, Bradford, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union.

Penn State Health: August 14th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m. 
The Penn State Health RRHCP covers the following counties:  Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry and York.

If you have a facility in these counties, you should have received an invitation to join us. If not, please let me know, and we’ll ensure you have a seat at the table.

Please keep in mind: this is a PHCA member benefit, and only PHCA members are able to join.

Temporary Nurse Aide Legislation: 15 Co-Sponsors in the State Senate
Thanks to our members who have reached out to their state Senators to advocate for support of our Temporary Nurse Aide legislation. We have already secured fifteen co-sponsors on the bill!

If your Senator hasn’t signed on, you should’ve received an email from us this morning. We’d encourage you to keep the pressure on, as we will continue to advocate for the swift passage of this bill when the legislature returns in September.

If you have any questions regarding this bill or the TNA program, please let me know.

 

 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020 – 7:16 p.m.

Additional Introductory RRHCP Meetings Scheduled for August
PHCA has scheduled two more introductory meetings with the various Regional Response Health Collaboration Programs (RRCHPs) throughout the state. These meetings will provide members with the opportunity to hear from their RRHCP health system and learn about the resources and support being offered, as well as a chance to engage and ask questions.

These meetings are vital for nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities, as this is our chance to share our experiences and inform the RRHCPs where help is needed most. Whether it’s testing, PPE, staffing or infection control protocols, the RRHCPs were created to help us.

The two additional meetings that have been scheduled are:

Geisinger Clinic: August 13th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m.
The Geisinger Clinic RRHCP covers the following counties: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming, Bradford, Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga and Union.

Penn State Health: August 14th from 11:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m.
The Penn State Health RRHCP covers the following counties:  Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry and York.

If you have a facility in these counties, you should have received an invitation to join us earlier today. If not, please let me know, and we’ll ensure you have a seat at the table.

Please keep in mind: this is a PHCA member benefit, and only PHCA members are able to join.

DOH Presents Information on Healthcare Worker Exposure
Earlier today, the Department of Health presented information regarding the exposure of healthcare workers at home. DOH is planning a second part of the presentation for later this week.

In case you missed it, click the link below for the slides from today’s presentation:

Additionally, please continue to utilize the following RA Accounts for questions and issues:

RA-DHSNFQUESTION@pa.gov – For inquiries regarding reporting guidance, requirements & access
RA-DHHCC-OPS@pa.gov – For emergency Healthcare Coalition issues & inquiries

And you can always reach out to the PHCA team for help.

Update on Liability Protections for Long-Term Care Providers, Facilities and Workers
If you watch the nightly news, you’ve probably heard about the latest potential stimulus package being negotiated in Washington, D.C. between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Though the central debate currently hinges on unemployment compensation (and the specific amount that will be afforded to workers who have lost their jobs), a large component of the package is liability protections for businesses, manufacturers and healthcare providers – including nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities.

Though it’s too early to tell exactly what will happen, PHCA continues to advocate on your behalf as it relates to achieving protections against frivolous lawsuits. Without those protections, providers will likely be sued by both in-state and out-of-state law firms looking for an easy payday (we’re already seeing attorneys advertise against us on social media and in newspapers).

Additionally, PHCA has been advocating in Harrisburg for these same protections, and various bills have already circulated throughout the state House and Senate. Though they face an uphill battle in Pennsylvania, we will continue to share your story.

If you have specific examples of predatory law firms targeting your facility, please let us know. The more ammunition we have for this fight, the better.

Monday, August 3, 2020 – 6:55 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 565 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 26 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 114,155.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates for you:

ICYMI: PHCA, LeadingAge PA, PMDA Sent Joint Letter to Gov. Wolf Requesting Critical Funding for Testing
On Friday, PHCA – in conjunction with LeadingAge PA and the Pennsylvania Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (PMDA) – sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf, urging his administration to direct additional funding (state and/or federal dollars) to long-term care providers for the purpose of future testing efforts.

Both the Governor’s office and the Department of Health have reviewed the letter, and we’re hoping to work with the administration on securing funding to help you with continued testing in nursing homes, as well as a baseline testing in assisted living and personal care.

In the meantime, facilities should be leaning on Regional Response Healthcare Collaborative Programs (RRHCPs) for help with testing. If you need help contacting your local RRHCP, please let us know.

Additionally, PHCA will be testifying before the House of Representatives next week, specifically regarding testing challenges in our sector. In short, we will be sharing your stories with members of the general assembly – and we won’t hold back.

We’ll keep you updated as we learn more. We’re very proud to have worked in collaboration with PMDA and LeadingAge PA on testing efforts, and we’ll continue to find opportunities to build coalitions across the state.

DHS Distributes Four Documents Regarding Reopening and Testing

Earlier today, the Department of Human Services released long-awaited updates for assisted living and personal care providers on Testing and Reopening FAQs, as well as the Reopening Implementation Plan Template. Please find links to the  four documents below:

  1. Reopening FAQs – updated
  2. Reopening Guidance – updated
  3. Testing of Residents and Staff FAQ – updated
  4. Reopening Template for AL/PC – New

 

Thursday, July 30, 2020 – 6:39 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 860 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 26 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 111,078.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

URGENT for All AL/PC Members: Portal Officially Launched, Deadline Extended for Potential Federal Funding
As we shared earlier this week, the federal government is considering a distribution of provider relief funds for assisted living and memory care providers. We know now that this will also include personal care homes. On Monday, we told you that HHS was developing a secure data portal, and we’d need you to be prepared with specific information regarding your community.

Just a few minutes ago, the secure data portal became available!

We’re urging all our AL/PC members to get registered and begin the submission process. The deadline for submitting your information has been extended to this Monday, August 3 at 5 p.m. 

At this time, there is no guarantee that funding for AL/PC (through this latest potential funding source) will come to fruition. However, we have been assured that providing this information is an important step forward, and will help determine the eventual outcome for our providers next week.

We appreciate your efforts to compile and submit your information before the Monday deadline, and please let us know if you have any questions.

Another RRHCP Conference Call with UPMC/Allegheny Health Network and PHCA Has Been Scheduled!
PHCA has been working with the Regional Response Healthcare Collaborative Programs (RRHCPs) to schedule conference calls between each region and our members in those areas.

We’ve now scheduled two separate calls with UPMC and the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) to provide specific opportunities for our nursing homes and assisted living/personal care providers to better understand the support offered by these health systems in southwest PA.

The dates and times for these calls are below:

Assisted Living and Personal Care Members: Friday, August 7 at 11 a.m.

Skilled Nursing Members: Wednesday, August 12 at 11 a.m.

A calendar invite was shared with our members in those southwest counties earlier today. Please note, these conference calls are a member-only benefit.

If you are a member of PHCA and did not receive a calendar invite but would like to participate, please reach out to Gail Weidman.

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the needs of your facilities and communities, and to better understand the support and resources UPMC and AHN will have to offer.

As additional calls are scheduled in the remaining regions across the state, we’ll share those details with you.

Update on CMS’ Distribution of Point-of-Care, Rapid Testing Devices
As the first antigen Point-of-Care (POC) testing devices make their way to nursing homes across the country, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – has compiled a brief document summarizing some key information providers should be aware of before utilizing these devices. Most notably, the CARES Act requires all laboratories with a CLIA certificate to report the results of every COVID-19 test that they conduct (positives and negatives) to the appropriate state or local public health department.

Additionally, late this afternoon, our state Department of Health added new guidance specific to these point-of-care tests to their Message Board. Please review this guidance for detailed information regarding specimen collection, interpreting results, CLIA certification, staff training and reporting test results to PA-NEDSS. The document also provides additional resources and links to health care provider fact sheets and patient handouts.

If you have any questions on this, please let us know how we can help you.

At this point, we’ve learned of only a few member facilities that have received the tests, and there have been a number of difficulties and challenges. Most members have not even begun using the test, as we’re waiting on more information. As we learn more, we’ll keep you updated.

 

 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 – 6:23 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 834 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 286 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 110,218.

Allegheny County is reporting an increase of 125 cases and Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 111 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Here are a few additional important updates:

Pennsylvania Extends Renewal Deadlines for Certain Nursing Licenses
Earlier today, Gov. Wolf granted a 90-day extension of certain license renewal deadlines for State Board of Nursing licensees. An additional 30 days for renewal has been granted for the following State Board of Nursing license types:

  • Registered Nurse
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner
  • Prescriptive Authority

This will be the final extension for this cohort and there will be no additional extensions for this cohort. All renewals are due for this group of licensees on August 28, 2020.

Personal Care Homes Likely to be Considered as part of Federal HHS Funding Ask
As we shared yesterday, the federal HHS is considering a potential funding allocation for assisted living providers. We learned today that this funding ask would likely also include personal care homes. While it’s important to note this funding is not certain, our national organization believes is hopeful that this is a good first step in securing

To facilitate this funding ask, HHS has requested that licensed/registered/certified assisted living or memory care facilities begin preparing the following information for submission to a secure data collection portal:

  • Name of licensed/registered/certified assisted living and/or memory care community
  • Name of entity that holds the license/registration/certification
  • Address
  • Community license/registration/certification number (some states may not provide a number)
  • Corresponding Tax Identification Number (TIN)
  • Taxpayer ID Number for the filing company
  • Contact information for the person submitting data
  • Include licensed assisted living that is part of a CCRC—even if the skilled nursing facility associated has already received funding from the Provider Relief Fund.

As a reminder, HHS is requesting this information be submitted no later than this Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m., but we have not yet received the link to this secure portal.

As soon as we have it, we’ll share the link to the portal and submission instructions with you. Please have the information (above) ready for submission this week.

Contact Information for Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP) Call Centers Now Available
The RRHCPs are now available to provide operational and administrative support to nursing homes, personal care, and assisted living. Regional call centers will be available to provide direct support and assistance 24/7.

We’ve heard from many of our AL/PC members that accessing testing is becoming more difficult by the day. As a reminder, the RRHCPs are tasked with assisting long-term care providers with testing.

As you work to procure testing to meet the August 31 deadline for assisted living and personal care, we encourage you to reach out to your respective RRHCP for support and consider the testing vendors outlined in this resource, which have been vetted either by AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – or the PHCA staff.

To contact your regional call center, click here. If you have any questions, please send them to ra-dhHCC-ops@pa.gov for DOH questions or ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov for DHS questions.

Update on 3D-Printed Face Shields from Harrisburg University
Thank you to all of you who reached out to us requesting 3D-printed face shields donated by Harrisburg University’s Advanced Manufacturing Program. We received an overwhelming response and will be reaching out to those who requested shields over the next few days to coordinate delivery to your facility or community.

While there weren’t enough face shields to meet everyone’s needs, Harrisburg University has been a great partner in this effort and we’ll update you as more face shields become available.

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 – 6 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,120 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 39 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 109,384.

Allegheny County is reporting an increase of 119 cases, Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 175 cases and Delaware County is reporting an increase of 118 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

In addition, DOH Secretary Levine announced today that every nursing home in Pennsylvania has officially completed their universal testing of all residents and staff.

The Secretary also shared that 98% of all required infection control surveys have been completed. The Department expects the remaining surveys to be completed ahead of CMS’ deadline, which is this Friday, July 31.

We know that, for many of our SNF members, completing this testing mandate was difficult. And we appreciate your work to meet the state deadline, especially given the challenges surrounding procurement and turnaround times.

We’ve heard from many of our AL/PC members that accessing testing is becoming more difficult by the day. Secretary Levine acknowledged these challenges during today’s press conference and indicated she is even hearing from hospitals that there is a shortage of testing reagents.

As you work to procure testing to meet the August 31 deadline for assisted living and personal care, we encourage you to consider the testing vendors outlined in this resource, which have been vetted either by AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – or the PHCA staff.

Additionally, here are a few important updates:

New Federal Stimulus Package, the HEAL Act, Unveiled in U.S. Senate
Late yesterday, US Senate Republicans revealed a new $1 trillion coronavirus relief package called the HEAL Act.

While the bill includes $25 billion (out of a possible $100 billion) in funding for long-term care, it also includes liability protections for healthcare providers, as well as an extension of broadened telehealth reimbursement through 2021.

Also included are deductions for employer purchases of testing, personal protective equipment, and other supplies.

We expect this bill to move before the end of August, and we will continue to share updates with you as we learn more.

3D-Printed Face Shields from Harrisburg University Now Available!
A few months ago, as PPE shortages swept through Pennsylvania, Harrisburg University’s Advanced Manufacturing Program reached out to PHCA to offer medical face shields to support health care workers fighting COVID-19. The medical face shields are printed using Harrisburg University’s 3D printer.

We currently have 250 face shields available for our nursing homes, assisted living residences and personal care homes. The face shields are packaged in boxes of 20.

If you’re interested in receiving these face shields, free of charge, please reach out to Shayna Varner, our director of communications, to make arrangements for pick up or delivery.

Reminder: Nursing Home SOS Grant Program Available to NEPA Providers
In early May, AllOne Foundation & Charities, in partnership with State Senator John Yudichak, announced the establishment of a $500,000 grant program to assist nursing homes in Northeastern Pennsylvania to procure and access COVID-19 supplies in three priority supply areas:

  • Infection Control Supplies
  • Personal Protection Equipment
  • Symptom Screening Supplies

This program currently is taking applications from the following priority counties: Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Pike and Susquehanna. To learn more about the program and to apply, click here.

We have been very supportive of this program, and I now sit on the Board of Directors for the program.

 

 

Monday, July 27, 2020 – 6:14 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 839 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 39 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 108,264.

Allegheny County is reporting an increase of 180 cases, and Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 166 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Action Needed: Federal Funding for Assisted Living Providers Under Consideration from HHS
Today, we learned from AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – that the federal HHS is considering a potential funding allocation for assisted living providers. We are working to understand if this will also include personal care homes.

To facilitate this, HHS has requested that licensed/registered/certified assisted living or memory care facilities begin preparing the following information for submission to a secure data collection portal:

  • Name of licensed/registered/certified assisted living and/or memory care community
  • Name of entity that holds the license/registration/certification
  • Address
  • Community license/registration/certification number (some states may not provide a number)
  • Corresponding Tax Identification Number (TIN)
  • Taxpayer ID Number for the filing company
  • Contact information for the person submitting data
  • Include licensed assisted living that is part of a CCRC—even if the skilled nursing facility associated has already received funding from the Provider Relief Fund.

HHS is requesting this information be submitted no later than this Friday, July 31 at 5 p.m.but we have not yet received the link to this secure portal.

As soon as we have it, we’ll share the link to the portal and submission instructions with you. Please have the information (above) ready for submission this week.

We expect to know more in the coming days, but this is, for now, certainly welcome news for our AL/PC membership. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Conference Call with LECOM Health and PHCA Scheduled for Next Tuesday, August 4
As you know, we have been working with the Regional Response Healthcare Collaborative Programs to schedule conference calls between each RRHCP and our members.

Our first call with LECOM Health has been scheduled for Tuesday, August 4 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. A calendar invite was shared with our members in Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean and Warren counties earlier today.

We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the needs your facilities and communities have, and to better understand the support and resources LECOM Health will have to offer. As additional calls are scheduled in the remaining five regions across the state, we’ll share those details with you.

In addition, linked here is the presentation from Friday’s webinar. If you were not able to attend the webinar, this presentation may be helpful as will this resource that outlines the 24/7 Call Center numbers for each region.

 

Friday, July 24, 2020 – 6:55 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,213 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 251 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 105,571.

Today marks the highest daily total of positive cases of COVID-19 since May 10. In addition, there continue to be significant daily increases reported in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. Allegheny is reporting an increase of 198 cases, and Philadelphia is reporting an increase of 227 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

A Quick Note from PHCA
As we close out another week of rising COVID-19 cases across Pennsylvania and the United States, we wanted to take a brief moment to pause, take a step back from the pandemic swirling around us, and send you a simple message: Thank you.

Thank you for fighting for your residents every single day. Thank you for all that you’ve done, and all that you will continue to do to mitigate and contain the spread of COVID-19 in your facilities and communities.

I’ve told you that the fight to support long-term care is very personal for my family and me, and you can read more about our journey here.

While it’s hard to even compare, I do want you to know that, as you’ve been fighting for your residents, the PHCA team has spent every minute here in Harrisburg fighting for you.

Even before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Pennsylvania, we began advocating on your behalf for priority testing and PPE, staffing support, clear and direct guidance from state regulators, and collaboration with state and federal government.

We know the last few months have been difficult – and sometimes it feels like there’s no end in sight. And I know it might also feel like the work you do goes unnoticed and unrecognized by the general public, or by regulators in Harrisburg.

At PHCA, we see what you do, and we see you for what you truly are: heroes. And we won’t rest until you’re recognized as such by everyone in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

That’s why we’ve continued to advocate on your behalf at the state and federal level. Today, we took our advocacy efforts to D.C. to ensure Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation understands how important medical liability protections are for this industry. You can read an example of our letter here.

As we look back, we’re also looking forward – and the PHCA team is working to ensure that you have the resources and support you need as a resurgence of COVID-19 becomes a reality in Pennsylvania.

I want to tell you how proud we are to represent you here in Harrisburg and across the state. Thank you for all of your hard work, and please let us know how we can help you.

HHS Extends Public Health Emergency Declaration
Last night, HHS formally extended the COVID-19 pandemic Public Health Emergency for another 90 days. The extension ensures that the COVID-19-related regulatory and reimbursement blanket waivers are extended. This includes waivers for telehealth, staff training requirements, the 3-day stay, and spell of illness.

CMS has developed a useful resource that outlines all waivers issued as part of the federal declaration.

Contact Information for Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP) Call Centers Now Available
The RRHCPs are now available to provide operational and administrative support to nursing homes, personal care and assisted living.

Regional call centers will be available to provide direct support and assistance 24/7. To contact your regional call center, click here.

If you have any questions, please send them to ra-dhHCC-ops@pa.gov for DOH questions or ra-pwarlheadquarters@pa.gov for DHS questions.

Reminder: Requirements for AL/PC Universal Testing Mandate, Long-Term Care Facility Universal Testing Form
As a follow up to today’s AL/PC committee call, linked here is additional information regarding reporting baseline testing and linked here is an updated testing vendor list. All test results should be submitted using this form.

 

 

Thursday, July 23, 2020 – 6:16 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 962 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 331 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 104,358.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Update from Today’s DOH Provider Call
Earlier today, PHCA participated in a provider call with the Department of Health. We asked a number of questions regarding the new point-of-care, rapid testing supplied by CMS, the universal testing mandate, the CVS testing initiative, and more. Below are a few updates based on the responses we received:

  • At this time, DOH does not have any guidance or additional information for providers regarding the point-of-care, rapid testing equipment, and supplies that will be provided to nursing homes by CMS. We are waiting for DOH approval so that those tests, once delivered, can be used for surveillance testing and reopening purposes.
  • DOH is reaching out to individual nursing homes now to ensure compliance with the universal testing mandate (remember: the deadline is TOMORROW). We’ve been told they are reconciling the completed universal testing list with the list of providers who have submitted the form indicating their results are still pending. Once these lists have been cross-referenced, DOH will be providing us with a list, and we will reach out to any facilities who haven’t reported.
  • We’ve heard numerous concerns from members about CVS and their testing procedures. DOH met with CVS about the concerns we raised, and improvements should be expected moving forward. Please continue to let us know about any challenges with that program.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman and Chris Fisher on the PHCA staff.

Update re: CMS Point-of-Care Testing Initiative
During yesterday’s CMS call, we learned the aforementioned point-of-care, rapid testing process is moving quickly. Nearly 600 devices will be distributed this week to facilities in geographical hot spots. The distribution of testing equipment will be prioritized based on the following (this is based on CDC weekly reporting):

  • Three or more confirmed cases in the last seven days.
  • One new case in the last seven days with no previous COVID cases.
  • One confirmed/suspected staff member in the last seven days.
  • One death in the last seven days.
  • Inadequate access for testing in the last seven days.

As a reminder, this is a one-time shipment. Facilities may order more test swabs via the manufacturer/vendor. We will share additional information regarding this program as soon as it is made available.

New Details re: Available Hazard Pay Grant Funding 
Last week, Governor Tom Wolf announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is available to Pennsylvania-based nursing and care facilities, and we are encouraging PHCA members to apply.

Every application will be evaluated by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) according to the industry’s risk of exposure, location of the employer, the prevalence of COVID-19, and the average hourly wage. There is no guarantee of funding.

There are still some issues that need clarification from DCED, such as if staffing agencies that supply health care workers are eligible for the grants.

To watch the CREDC webinar about the grant program, click here. To learn more about the grant program, click here.

Reminder: DOH, DHS to Host Informational Webinar on Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP) Tomorrow Morning
The Department of Health and Department of Human Services will be hosting an informational webinar tomorrow morning at 9 am for all long-term care providers regarding the new RRHCP.

The webinar will include an overview of the program, as well as what kinds of direct support and resources will be available to providers. This may include regional call centers with 24/7 access for providers, assistance with testing, access to infection control expertise, and rapid response teams for cases of emergency.

To join the webinar virtually, click here. The password is DHS2020.

To call into the webinar, dial 844-621-3956. The access code is 1452749024.

 

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 – 7:19 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 631 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 396 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 103,396.

In addition, DOH announced it has expanded its contact tracing program to 661 contract tracers across each of the six regional health districts in Pennsylvania. Within each of these health districts, the Department is working to gather a number of outside organizations to discuss the contact tracing needs and any potential problems/challenges.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Breaking News: $5 Billion in Federal Funding Headed to SNFs Nationwide
Just minutes ago, President Donald Trump announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be sending $5 billion to all skilled nursing facilities in the U.S.

This $5 billion will come from the federal Provider Relief Fund.

We don’t know how the money will be distributed or when – more details should be available in the coming weeks.

HHS Releases Preliminary Provider Relief Fund Reporting Guidance 
Yesterday, HHS released a framework outlining the detailed Provider Relief Fund reporting guidance and materials that will be published on August 17. This framework can be found here.

The reporting guidance will provide directions on reporting obligations applicable to any provider that received a payment from Provider Relief Fund distributions. There are plans to offer webinar Q&A sessions in advance of the submission deadlines.

We will provide additional details regarding these webinar Q&As as soon as they are made available.

Health Care Employees’ Last Names No Longer Required on Photo ID Badges
Beginning August 30, employee photo ID badges will only be required to include a recent photograph of the employee, the employee’s first name, the employee’s title and the name of the health care facility or employment agency.

The intent of this new directive is to protect employees of health care facilities from being harassed by patients and/or family members who have access to their full names and may be able to track them down using social media or other networking platforms.

The Department of Health has advised that it is acceptable for providers to conceal an employee’s last name on the existing Photo ID badge and then remove the employee’s last name when a new Photo ID is issued. The Department is developing FAQs related to this, and we will share those as soon as they are made available.

Reminder: DOH, DHS to Host Informational Webinar on Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP)
The Department of Health and Department of Human Services will be hosting an informational webinar this Friday, July 24th at 9 a.m. for all long-term care providers regarding the new RRHCP.

The webinar will include an overview of the program, as well as what kinds of direct support and resources will be available to providers. This may include regional call centers with 24/7 access for providers, assistance with testing, access to infection control expertise, and rapid response teams for cases of emergency.

To join the webinar virtually, click here. The password is DHS2020.

To call into the webinar, dial 844-621-3956. The access code is 1452749024.

 

 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 – 6:28 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,027 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 316 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 102,765.

It is the second-largest one-day increase in more than two months, according to state data. Allegheny County is reporting an increase of 139 cases and Philadelphia County is reporting an increase of 168 new cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DOH Releases New HAN re: Discontinuation of Isolation Following New CDC Guidance
Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health released PA-HAN 518 based on new guidance released by the CDC for discontinuation of isolation for persons with COVID-19 not in healthcare settings. This HAN replaces the guidance in PA-HAN 504 released on May 5, 2020.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to our PHCA experts, Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher, if you have any questions.

NHSN Updates Instructions for Completing the Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment Pathway in Federal Reporting Database
The NHSN has updated its instructions for completing the NHSN pathway for Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment. Below is a summary of changes made to the instructions:

  • Section dedicated to selecting the correct facility type for NHSN enrollment
  • Section on conventional capacity for personal protective equipment (PPE) supply
  • Section on utilization of contingency capacity or crisis capacity strategies for PPE supply items
  • Do not include KN95 masks in the N95 mask supply item questions
  • Contingency and crisis level strategies are not considered as having “any” supply, and therefore, “NO” must be selected for each supply item in which contingency or crisis strategies are being used.

You can download the new instructions for the Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment pathway here.

AHCA/NCAL Launches New Advocacy Push
This week, AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – kicked off its new advocacy campaign with the launch of a new website, SaveOurSeniors.org. As Congress begins debate on the next and possibly, the final stimulus package for the year, AHCA/NCAL is working tirelessly to ensure that our nation’s policymakers understand the importance of prioritizing our seniors and long-term care providers.

This website outlines federal advocacy priorities to ensure long-term care providers can acquire the necessary resources to fight the coronavirus and protect their residents and staff.

Reminder: DOH, DHS to Host Informational Webinar on Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP)
The Department of Health and Department of Human Services will be hosting an informational webinar this Friday, July 24th at 9 a.m. for all long-term care providers regarding the new RRHCP.

The webinar will include an overview of the program, as well as what kinds of direct support and resources will be available to providers. This may include regional call centers with 24/7 access for providers, assistance with testing, access to infection control expertise, and rapid response teams for cases of emergency.

To join the webinar virtually, click here. The password is DHS2020.

To call into the webinar, dial 844-621-3956. The access code is 1452749024.

 

 

Monday, July 20, 2020 – 5:42 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 711 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 75 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 101,738.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DOH Releases New HANs and Updated Reopening Guidance with Changes, Clarifications
Over the weekend, the Department of Health released two new health alerts: PA-HAN 516 and PA-HAN 517. These include updates to the CDC guidance for return-to-work criteria for healthcare personnel, as well as updates to CDC guidance for discontinuing transmission-based precautions for patients with COVID-19.

This morning, DOH released new interim guidance with significant changes and clarification regarding the definitions of ‘outbreak’ and ‘staff’, as well as steps to reopen. All revisions to the interim guidance are marked in RED.

While this guidance has been issued specifically for nursing facilities, we encourage our AL/PC members to review and take the revisions into consideration, as we have been told by BHSL that they are deferring to the DOH-issued guidance in most situations.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to our PHCA experts, Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher, if you have any questions.

DOH, DHS to Host Informational Webinar on Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP)
Today, DOH and DHS announced plans to host an informational webinar this Friday, July 24th at 9 a.m. for all long-term care providers regarding the new RRHCP.

The webinar will include an overview of the program, as well as what kinds of direct support and resources will be available to providers. This may include regional call centers with 24/7 access for providers, assistance with testing, access to infection control expertise, and rapid response teams for cases of emergency.

To join the webinar virtually, click here. The password is DHS2020.

To call into the webinar, dial 844-621-3956. The access code is 1452749024.

Update: Technical Glitch with DCED Platform Causing Issues with Hazard Pay Grant Program Applications
We learned today that the volume of applications for DCED hazard pay grants has created a problem with the Keystone Login, the first part of the grant application process.

DCED is aware of this problem and is working with the Commonwealth’s information technology staff on a solution.

If you are still having problems with the Keystone Login this Wednesday, you may call 877-328-0995 or email KeystoneLoginSupport@randstadusa.com. If you are successful with the login and creating an account and are then having problems with the DCED Single Application, please email ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.

For now, DCED asks that you be patient as they are working to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

 

 

Friday, July 17, 2020 – 7:20 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,032 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 251 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 99,478.

Allegheny and Philadelphia counties continue to see significant increases. Today, Allegheny is reporting an increase of 240 cases and Philadelphia is reporting an increase of 163 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

AHCA/NCAL Releases Guidance for Avoiding NHSN Data Reporting Errors
The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) has identified common data submission errors regarding confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities. If you have questions about submitting data to the NHSN system, you should review the NHSN LTCF COVID-19 data quality webinar to review the commonly identified errors in submission data and follow the data quality slides to check that their information is being submitted correctly.

Update on Temporary Nurse Aide Transition Legislation
Earlier this week, we reached out to you and asked you to help us take action to make our temporary nurse aides permanent caregivers!
State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), a former nurse, has introduced new legislation that would amend state law and provide a path to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the Nurse Aide Registry. Essentially, this will enable us to maintain the workforce ‘pipeline’ we’ve been able to build.

Your voices are being heard!

So far, 12 state senators – Langerholc, Aument, Mensch, Pittman, Collett, Regan, Phillips-Hill, Argall, Browne, Fontana, Martin and Killion – have signed on to co-sponsor this legislation.

Thank you to those who have already reached out to your senator. For those who haven’t, we encourage you to take a minute to send your senator an email, urging them to co-sponsor this legislation to put temporary nurse aides on a path to full-time employment.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

Reminder: Governor Wolf Announces Hazard Pay Grant Funding Now Available
Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is available to Pennsylvania-based nursing and care facilities, and we are encouraging PHCA members to apply.

To learn more about this program or to apply for grant funding, click here.

 

 

Thursday, July 16, 2020 – 6:54 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 781 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 213 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 98,446.

Allegheny and Philadelphia counties continue to see significant increases. Today, Allegheny is reporting 140 more cases, and Philadelphia is reporting 132 more cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Update from DOH Regarding July 24 Universal Testing Deadline for Nursing Homes
Today, the Department of Health joined a PHCA committee call to discuss and answer questions regarding the department’s universal testing mandate.

During the call, the department recognized there are issues with the turnaround time of test results for long-term care facilities. Given these ongoing challenges, the department will not be taking action against any facility that has completed specimen collection – but has not received test results – by the July 24 deadline.

As a reminder, if you are experiencing issues in securing testing equipment, please email the state at ra-dhcovidtesting@pa.gov.

You can also always reach out to the PHCA team for help.

An additional email reminder from DOH regarding testing completion will be sent to all facilities tomorrow. Yesterday, you should’ve received an email from PHCA if you had not completed your baseline test.

Governor Wolf Announces Hazard Pay Grant Funding Now Available
This afternoon, Gov. Wolf announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is available to Pennsylvania-based nursing and care facilities, and we are encouraging PHCA members to apply!

To learn more about this program or to apply for grant funding, click here.

REMINDER: Comment Period for White House Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes Ends Tomorrow
The White House Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes is encouraging providers and other stakeholders to share their perspectives and first-hand experiences to help the commission identify best practices for providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a great opportunity to share your thoughts directly with the Commission, and we encourage you to do so.

Submissions will be accepted via the commission’s public engagement portal no later than 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can assist you as you develop your comments.

AHCA/NCAL to Offer COVID-Related Resources on Communications and Infection Prevention and Control
AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – will be offering two COVID-19-related webinars focusing on communications and infection prevention and control:

Webinar on Communicating During COVID-19: Join AHCA/NCAL and PLUS Communications for a live, ahcancalED webinar next Thursday, July 23 at 2 p.m. on how to effectively communicate with the media and stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic. To register, click here.

New Trainings and Resources Related to Infection Prevention and Control: AHCA/NCAL has developed two COVID-19 pieces of training on ahcancalED – Infection Prevention & Control in the Post-COVID-19 World (designed for leadership) and Basics of Infection Prevention and Control in the Post-COVID-19 World (designed for all staff). In addition, AHCA/NCAL has developed a series of action briefs to help centers develop and improve their infection prevention and control programs. To learn more, click here.

 

 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020 – 7:35 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 994 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 65 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 97,665.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

As a result of the ongoing increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. Tom Wolf announced a return to targeted mitigation tactics in an effort to reduce community spread. These include:

  • The closure of all bars unless the facility offers sit-down, dine-in meals, or is serving take-out sales of alcoholic beverages. All service must be at a table or booth; bar service is prohibited.
  • Occupancy for indoor dining at restaurants is limited to 25 percent of capacity.
  • Indoor events and gatherings of more than 25 persons are prohibited.
  • Outdoor events and gatherings of more than 250 persons are prohibited.
  • Teleworking is, once again, strongly encouraged.

These mitigation efforts will go into effect tomorrow.

A few important updates:

DOH Releases List of Nursing Homes That Have Completed Baseline Testing
Yesterday, the Department of Health released a list of 349 nursing home providers who have completed their mandated, baseline testing of all residents and staff.

We know many providers have had difficulty procuring testing equipment to complete this order, and we have already contacted members who have yet to complete this testing requirement to provide additional support. If you have not completed your baseline test, you should’ve received an email from PHCA earlier today.

As a reminder: all nursing homes must complete baseline testing no later than July 24.

Up to this point, the Department of Health has indicated it will not be providing waivers for those facilities who are not able to complete testing by July 24, nor will it consider extending the deadline.

If you are having difficulties accessing testing equipment and are concerned about meeting the deadline, we urge you to contact the Department of Health at RA-DHCOVIDTESTING@pa.gov.

Please also reach out to Chris Fisher on our staff.

Update on CMS Testing Announcement, Call with CMS Administrator Seema Verma
As we told you last night, CMS announced it would be sending point-of-care, rapid testing supplies to every nursing home in the country for COVID-19 testing. This is going to begin next week.

The initiative will begin with 2,000 nursing homes, ranked by CMS as being at risk due to community spread. The remaining SNFs will receive tests in the following weeks.

As far as the testing goes, we understand that each nursing home will receive one diagnostic instrument, along with the associated tests. Following the initial distribution, nursing homes can procure additional tests directly from the respective manufacturer.

Results for the tests will be provided in minutes.

CMS will prioritize nursing homes with three or more coronavirus cases during the initial distribution, and they will also be focusing on hotspot areas, such as Florida, Texas and Arizona. CMS has been able to put together a list based on information nursing homes have provided to the CDC.

There are certainly outstanding questions, but we hope you were able to join today’s 5:30 pm call with CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who put forth this plan and spoke very highly of the nursing homes throughout the country.

We’ve also asked Pennsylvania’s DOH about their plans with these tests, related to guidance and CLIA requirements. We’ll keep you updated on those questions.

CMS to Host COVID-19 Lessons from the Front Lines Call This Friday
CMS will be hosting its regularly scheduled Lessons from the Front Lines call for nursing home providers this Friday, July 17.

These calls are a joint effort between CMS Administrator Seema Verma, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Physicians and other clinicians are invited to share their experiences, ideas, strategies, and insights with one another related to their COVID-19 response. There will be an opportunity to ask questions of presenters.

The call-in information is below:

  • Dial-In: 833-614-0820
  • Access Code: 3096434

You may also join via the CMS web link by clicking here.

Urge Your State Senator to Co-Sponsor SCO1668 Today!
Yesterday, we shared with you that State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), a former nurse, has introduced new legislation that would amend state law to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the Certified Nurse Aide Registry.

A few months ago, we worked hard to ensure the temporary nurse aide training program would be instituted here in PA. However, once the COVID-19 disaster declaration ends, that program is in danger of ending as well.

This new legislation will enable us to maintain the workforce ‘pipeline’ we’ve begun to build.

We encourage you to reach out to your state senator and send them an email urging them to co-sponsor this legislation to put temporary nurse aides on a path to full-time employment.

 

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 – 6:21 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 929 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 601 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 96,671.

While that number is, once again, alarmingly high, 216 of those cases were a result of a delay in private lab result reporting.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DHS Announces Health Systems Selected for Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) Program
Earlier today, DHS announced the health systems selected to lead the Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) programs. These systems will be tasked with supporting readiness and response planning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to long-term care providers. This includes infection prevention, testing procurement, PPE allocation, etc.

Here are the selected systems in each of the six regions:

Southeast Region:

  1. Thomas Jefferson University
  2. University of Pennsylvania

Northeast Region:

  1. Geisinger Clinic
  2. Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc

Southcentral Region:

  1. The Pennsylvania State University

Northcentral Region:

  1. Geisinger Clinic

Southwest Region:

  1. UPMC Community Provider Services

Northwest Region:

  1. LECOM Health
  2. UPMC Community Provider Services

We released a statement minutes after the names of these providers were released, urging them to collaborate and partner with you to share best practices and recommendations from the frontlines.

We are also planning to facilitate meetings with our members in each of the six regions to meet these health systems, ask questions, and share best practices. Stay tuned on dates for those opportunities.

We Need Your Help! Tell Your State Senator to Co-Sponsor SCO1668 Today!
Even before COVID-19 occupied our attention, PHCA was fighting against arguably the greatest workforce and nursing shortage in the history of our industry.

A few months ago, CMS suspended federal regulatory and statutory provisions to help you recruit and hire temporary nurse aides after the completion of an approved eight-hour online training course. Hundreds of temporary nurse aides have been hired to assist in the response to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania; however, when federal waivers expire and emergency declarations end, these aides will be forced to vacate their jobs, and they will not be deemed qualified or eligible for the state Nurse Aide Registry.

So we need your help to make our temporary nurse aides permanent!

State Senator Judy Ward (R-Blair), a former nurse, has introduced new legislation that would amend state law to allow temporary nurse aides hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the Certified Nurse Aide Registry. Essentially, this will enable us to maintain the workforce ‘pipeline’ we’ve begun to build.

We encourage you to take just two minutes to send your senator an email, urging them to co-sponsor this legislation to put temporary nurse aides on a path to full-time employment. The care of thousands of seniors across the state depends on it.

Thank you, and let us know if you have any questions.

Federal Government Will Send Point-of-Care COVID-19 Testing Units, Kits to All Nursing Homes in U.S.
This story just broke: the federal government has announced it will send point-of-care testing supplies for COVID-19 to all skilled nursing facilities in the country starting next week, according to Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

The initiative will begin next week with 2,000 nursing homes, ranked by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as being at risk because of community spread of COVID-19. The other SNFs in the U.S. will receive tests in the following weeks.

We will let you know as soon as we learn more.

 

 

Monday, July 13, 2020 – 7:39 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 328 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of nearly 400 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 95,742.

While this number reflects the lowest total of positive cases in some time, it’s important to remember this is likely a result of delayed reporting from lab providers over the weekend.

The number of positive cases has increased in 43 counties, which represents a 14% increase in positive cases statewide. During a press conference earlier today, Secretary of Health Dr. Levine indicated that, at this time, there is no plan to implement the red or yellow phase orders statewide.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Update on CARES Act Funding for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, we learned DHS plans to begin distributing CARES Act funding to AL/PC providers beginning Monday, July 27. These payments will be distributed in the order in which applications were received.

As a reminder, if your AL/PC community has not already submitted the facility acceptance form to DHS to receive CARES Act funding, please be sure to do so before the Friday, July 31st deadline.

We have requested a list of providers who have not yet applied for funding and will reach out to you if you haven’t completed the application.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on our staff.

DHS Expected to Announce Providers Selected to Lead RRHCs
While we had hoped to hear this announcement on Friday, we’re now expecting DHS to announce the providers selected to lead the Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) program later this week.

As you may recall, this program was created to establish robust partnerships between local health care systems and long-term care providers to provide help with infection control, contact tracing programs, telemedicine services, remote monitoring, consultation and enhance testing capabilities for both residents and staff.

We look forward to sharing this information with you soon.

Advocacy Efforts Ongoing for Support for Nursing Homes in COVID-19 Hotspots
As we shared last week, CMS has announced it will begin sending Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) across the country to give nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspots “immediate assistance.” The targeted areas will be identified by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

In addition, AHCA – our national organization – is continuing its advocacy efforts with the Department of Health and Human Services, urging DHHS to provide an additional round of funding for long-term care providers that have cared for patients with the virus.

This funding request is consistent with the per case “hot-spot” tranche that hospitals received earlier this year.

REMINDER: Our First-Ever Leadership Webinar Series Begins Wednesday!
This Wednesday, July 15th, we will be launching our first-ever interactive, five-part virtual leadership series designed for current leaders, administrators, executive directors and high-potential leaders. We couldn’t be more excited to bring this opportunity to you!

The series will be offered in partnership with Radiant & Resilient Leadership. The cost of the series is only $50, and all series participants can earn up to five CEUs.

We hope you’ll encourage members of your staff to join us for this opportunity, even in the midst of COVID, as this is a ‘first’ for PHCA and our membership.

To learn more or to register, click here.

 

 

Friday, July 10, 2020 – 6:56 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,009 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of nearly 300 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 93,876.

The number of new cases in Allegheny County increased by 180 cases overnight. Philadelphia County increased by 182 cases. According to the Department of Health, 175 of the total cases reported today did not occur within the past 24 hours but are the result of an influx of private lab results.

Still, 1,009 new cases is the highest new case total we’ve seen in quite some time.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

CMS Announces Immediate Help for Nursing Homes in COVID-19 Hotspot Areas
Earlier today, CMS announced it will begin sending Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) across the country to give nursing homes in COVID-19 hotspots “immediate assistance.” The targeted areas will be identified by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

CMS also said it is implementing an enhanced survey process tailored to meet the specific concerns of hotspot areas and will coordinate federal, state, and local efforts “to leverage all available resources to these facilities.”

We will share additional information as it is made available.

White House Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes
Today, the White House Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes unveiled a new public engagement tool on its website and is encouraging providers and other stakeholders to share their perspectives and first-hand experiences to help the commission identify best practices for providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a great opportunity to share your thoughts directly with the Commission, and we encourage you to do so.

Submissions should be no more than five pages and will be accepted until 5 pm next Friday (July 17).

Please let us know if you have any questions or if we can assist you as you develop your comments.

Weekly Provider Calls to Continue with New Meeting ID and Dial-In Information
The Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) will continue to hold weekly statewide COVID-19 calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 pm in partnership with the Department of Health Bureaus of Epidemiology and Emergency Preparedness & Response, and Emergency Medical Services.

Please note the meeting ID and dial-in information have changed:

www.zoom.us/j/96125202514
929-205-6099
meeting ID: 961 2520 2514

Reminder: please email your questions to ra-dhSNFquestion@pa.gov at least 24 hours prior to the call to be added to the agenda.

 

 

Thursday, July 9, 2020 – 8:10 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 719 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 130 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 92,867.

Specifically, the number of new cases in Allegheny County increased by 158 cases overnight. Philadelphia County increased by 161 cases.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DOH Announces New Testing Partnership for Nursing Homes
This morning, the Department of Health and Department of Community and Economic Development announced a new partnership with Eurofins, headquartered in Lancaster, to assist nursing homes in completing DOH’s universal testing order by the July 24 deadline.

While there is no specific information as to how this program will be rolled out, it is our understanding that it will be free of charge for nursing homes statewide.

We hope to have more details to share with you in the near future.

New Resources Posted to DOH Message Board
Earlier today, the Department of Health posted a new presentation to its message board, which offers updates on a number of different topics including MDS, RAI, PA-CMI/baseline reviews, COVID-related information (waivers, state surveys, infection control and reporting) and CMS quality programs.

Please feel free to share this presentation with those in your organization that may benefit from having the information. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher if you have any questions or concerns.

Update on CARES Act Funding for AL/PC Providers
As a reminder, if your AL/PC community has not already submitted the facility acceptance form to DHS to receive CARES Act funding, please be sure to do so before the Friday, July 31st deadline.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to Gail Weidman on our staff.

 

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 – 8:53 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 849 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 146 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 92,148.

There continue to be significant increases in cases in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties: the number of new cases in Allegheny County increased by 230 cases overnight, whereas Philadelphia increased by 90.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Ongoing Reporting Issues with Survey123 Tool for Nursing Homes
We understand the Survey123 tool has begun working for some nursing homes (as of late this afternoon), but there continues to be access and login issues. As a reminder, the Department Operations Center asks that you consider the following:

  • Nursing facilities should first attempt to edit their previous records by clicking here.
  • If facilities are unable to update their data using the link above, facilities should then attempt to add new data by clicking here.
  • Facilities should continue to update their data daily, based on system availability.

If you continue to have issues with reporting:

  • Avoid using Microsoft Internet Explorer; instead, use Chrome or Firefox.
  • Log out of Survey123, clear your browser’s cache, and log back into Survey123.

As always, we encourage you to document all attempts to meet the daily reporting requirements. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

DOH Releases Update on Health Care Coalition Regional Manager Transition
Earlier today, the Department of Health released a memo announcing the recent transition of the Health Care Coalition (HCC) management program from the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) to the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), which has left vacancies in each of the HCC regional manager positions.

During this transition period, the Bureau of Emergency Preparedness & Response is working with PHMC to provide critical support to coalition members. Moving forward, all HCC members have been asked to follow these processes until new regional managers have been identified:

  • HCC members are encouraged to contact their County Emergency Management Agency as the first line of support for emergencies or events impacting operations. Click here for a list of county coordinators.
  • HCC members are also encouraged to follow existing HCC plans and procedures to leverage coalition-level support systems that may be in place.
  • For questions related to COVID-19, please use the following resource accounts as appropriate:
    • For inquiries regarding testing strategies in long-term care facilities, please use ra-dhCOVIDtesting@pa.gov.
    • For inquiries regarding required Skilled Nursing Facility reporting requirements and systems, please use ra-dhSNFquestion@pa.gov.

If there are any general questions or concerns, please email the general mailbox at ra-dhEPR0640@pa.gov. And you can always reach out to PHCA as issues arise.

Advocacy Efforts at the Federal Level Continue
On Monday, the American Health Care Association sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar regarding pertinent issues that we raised with CMS Administrator Seema Verma last week.

The letter calls for residents and healthcare workers in long-term care settings to receive top priority for a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, to extend the public health emergency beyond the July 26 expiration date and to keep Section 1135 and Section 1812(f) waivers in place until certain conditions are met.

We will keep you updated on these efforts, and we will be engaging with members of our Congressional delegation to ensure our sector is supported moving forward.

REMINDER: Only One Week Left to Register for PHCA’s Leadership Webinar Series
Next Wednesday, July 15th, PHCA will be launching an interactive, five-part virtual leadership series designed for current leaders, administrators, executive directors and high-potential leaders. The series will focus on creating, cultivating and strengthening leaders in your facilities and communities, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring it to our membership.

The series will be offered in partnership with Radiant & Resilient Leadership. The cost of the series is only $50, and all series participants can earn up to five CEUs.

We hope you’ll encourage members of your staff to join us for this opportunity, even in the midst of COVID, as this is a ‘first’ for PHCA and our membership.

To learn more or to register, click here.

 

 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 – 7:32 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 995 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – nearly doubling the number of positive cases as compared to yesterday. This is also the highest number of confirmed new cases since May 10. This brings the statewide total to 91,299, and it’s safe to say we’ve officially begun to experience a resurgence of the virus.

Additionally, the number of new cases in Allegheny County increased by 204 overnight. Beaver County has now been required to shut down bars and restaurants (again). And Philadelphia experienced a rise in cases, though that is likely due to a lapse in data collection.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

New Draft Guidance for Handling Potential Travel-Related Exposure to COVID-19
We have received several questions regarding the recent guidance issued by the Department of Health last week, which requires those who have traveled or plan to travel to one of 15 states quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania.

We followed up with the Department to understand if travel to one of the 15 states listed in the guidance would be considered ‘exposure’, or if an employee could be tested upon their return to Pennsylvania (before the start of a 14-day quarantine).

We know this is important, especially during summer months when staff may be traveling.

The Department has advised that they are currently working on guidance and an FAQ related to these questions, and they plan to release it in the coming days. While this guidance has not yet been finalized and may change before it is formally released, we wanted to share this feedback from the Department as you consider next steps:

A test collected within 14 days of return could identify asymptomatic positive infection. However, a negative test does not allow a release from quarantine sooner than 14 days following return.

The current guidance recommends quarantine for 14 days following return from those states, regardless of type of employment. At this time, no exception is being made for healthcare workers.

As per HAN 510, this travel would be considered a ‘travel exposure’ and individuals should quarantine unless the facility is currently under crisis capacity standards for staffing. This means they must have already implemented contingency capacity standards which include:

  • Cancel all non-essential procedures and visits. Shift healthcare workers who work in these areas to support other patient care activities in the facility. Facilities will need to ensure these health care workers have received appropriate orientation and training to work in these areas that are new to them.
  • Attempt to address social factors that might prevent HCP from reporting to work such as transportation or housing if healthcare workers live with vulnerable individuals.
  • Identify additional HCP to work in the facility. Be aware of state-specific emergency waivers or changes to licensure requirements or renewals for select categories of HCP.
  • Request that HCP postpone elective time off from work.

Again, we expect to receive formal guidance and FAQs on this topic in the coming days and will share this information as soon as it is made available. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher if you have any questions.

Update on Ongoing Reporting Issues with Survey123 Tool for Nursing Homes
Today, the Department Operations Center issued recommendations related to the significant Survey123 reporting challenges that began Friday, July 3rd. According to the DOC, ESRI – the vendor that supports Survey123 – issued a systemwide update that negatively impacted the performance of the system.

In light of these issues, the DOC asks that we consider the following:

  • Nursing facilities should first attempt to edit their previous records by clicking here.
  • If facilities are unable to update their data using the link above, facilities should then attempt to add new data by clicking here.
  • Facilities should continue to update their data daily, based on system availability.

If facilities continue to have issues with reporting:

  • Avoid using Microsoft Internet Explorer; instead, use Chrome or Firefox.
  • Log out of Survey123, clear your browser’s cache, and log back into Survey123.

Given this is an ESRI system issue, DOC has now asked providers to refrain from sending questions related to this outage system issue to the RA account. Updated information about Survey123 will be shared when the issues are resolved.

With this in mind, we would encourage you and your administrators to document all attempts to meet the daily reporting requirements. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on our staff.

DOH Releases New FAQ Document for Nursing Home Universal Testing Order
Earlier today, the Department of Health released a new FAQ on the DOH Message Board regarding Secretary Levine’s universal testing order. This new FAQ includes important updates related to the definition of “all staff”, how to treat staff who refuse testing, etc.

Please let us know if you have any outstanding questions not addressed in this FAQ.

Legislation to Mandate Compensation for Universal Testing Advances
A welcome legislative update: earlier today, House Bill 2543, sponsored by state Representative Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), was unanimously approved by the House State Government Committee. This is a new PHCA initiative, and legislation we’ve been advocating for with legislators for weeks.

The legislation would require PA to provide sufficient COVID-19 tests for residents and employees of long-term care facilities, as well as cover the cost of these tests.

While the bill is likely not in its final form, we will continue advocating for payments and financial solutions for any testing mandates.

REMINDER: Register Today for PHCA’s Leadership Webinar Series
Next Wednesday, July 15th, PHCA will be launching an interactive, five-part virtual leadership series designed for current leaders, administrators, executive directors and high-potential leaders. The series will focus on creating, cultivating and strengthening leaders in your facilities and communities, and we couldn’t be more excited to bring it to our membership.

The series will be offered in partnership with Radiant & Resilient Leadership. The cost of the series is only $50, and all series participants can earn up to five CEUs.

We hope you’ll encourage members of your staff to join us for this opportunity, even in the midst of COVID, as this is a ‘first’ for PHCA and our membership.

To learn more or to register, click here.

 

 

Monday, July 6, 2020 – 7:33 p.m.

We hope you enjoyed your July 4th holiday weekend. We know that, for most of our members, there was no time off – there was simply more time and effort spent caring for residents and keeping fellow staff members safe.

For that, we thank you, and we will continue to advocate on your behalf.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 450 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 29 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 90,304.

This weekend, however, saw higher totals than we’ve experienced throughout the last few weeks. As we told you late last week, Pennsylvania may be the latest state to see a ‘resurgence’ of COVID-19. And many in state government are bracing for the totals in one to two weeks or the incubation period after the holiday weekend.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates from the weekend:

Ongoing Reporting Issues with DOH Survey123 Tool for Nursing Homes
Late last week, we began to hear from members regarding issues with the Department of Health’s Survey123 tool. Logins were failing, pages weren’t loading, etc. Even though it was the holiday weekend, we reached out to DOH multiple times to get the issues corrected.

Starting last Friday, July 3rd, a significant number of nursing homes were unable to complete the daily Survey123 reporting requirements because the tool simply shut down. As of this email update, it is still unavailable.

We worked with DOH this morning, and they’ve acknowledged the reporting issues. They’ve also assured us they are working to correct these issues “as quickly as possible”.

We were also quite dismayed to learn that Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine had sent another letter to providers this weekend, outlining compliance requirements for the Survey123 reporting mandate. By our count, more than 100 SNFs received this follow-up letter, which can only be described as a bullying threat.

Members remain concerned, especially given that there is no confirmation or acknowledgment after submitting your data to the Survey123 system.

We’ve asked for recommendations and guidance from the DOH related to these specific concerns and were told to expect additional information shortly. We will share this information with you as soon as we receive it.

In the meantime, we urge you to continue to document your submissions, and please reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

Additionally, if you received the letter (above) in error, please send an email to the state RA account, advising them that you have been reporting, and include any documentation. The account is: RA-dhsnfquestion@pa.gov.

We can’t emphasize this enough: at a time when you’re doing all you can for those you care for, this reporting requirement should not be the priority for our regulators. We’ll continue to work on your behalf to fix this issue.

PHCA to Launch Leadership Webinar Series Next Week
Next Wednesday, July 15th, PHCA will be launching an interactive, five-part virtual leadership series designed for current leaders, administrators, management or high-potential leaders who are currently working in a supervisory role or are poised to do so in the next 6-12 months, with a focus on the unique challenges of healthcare.

This series will be offered in partnership with Radiant & Resilient Leadership. The cost of the five-part leadership webinar series is $50. All series participants are eligible to earn up to five CEUs.

To learn more or to register, click here.

We hope you’ll join us for this opportunity, as this is a ‘first’ for PHCA and our membership!

REMINDER: Send Your Questions for Regional Response Health Collaborative
We have requested a meeting with the Regional Response Health Collaborative in each of Pennsylvania’s regions to discuss how the RRHCs can assist in preparing for potential future outbreaks in SNFs and AL/PC.

This Thursday during our call with BHSL, we’ll be speaking with Wilmarie Gonzalez – RRHC contract lead – to provide an update on the program. If you have any specific questions you would like us to address during this call, please send them to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk.

The selected health systems to support the RRHCs will likely be announced this Friday.

CMS to Offer COVID-19 Calls for Nursing Home Providers
CMS will be hosting two calls in July for nursing home providers to offer targeted updates on the agency’s latest COVID-19 guidance. During the calls, 1-2 leaders in the field will also share best practices with their peers. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions of presenters as time allows.

Wednesday, July 8th – 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
Toll-Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820
Access Passcode: 2997138
The audio webcast link can be found here.

Wednesday, July 22nd – 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Toll-Free Attendee Dial-In: 833-614-0820
Access Passcode: 1143564
The audio webcast link can be found here.

 

 

Thursday, July 2, 2020 – 8:05 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 832 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 196 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 88,074.

This also happens to be the highest total we’ve had in quite some time. The ‘resurgence’ of the virus that experts have warned about may have begun in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, Governor Wolf reminded all Pennsylvanians about the mask-wearing order signed by DHS Secretary Levine yesterday. According to the order, all Pennsylvanians are required to wear masks while outside their homes.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

We hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July weekend!

A few important updates:

DOH Releases Survey Reporting Tool for Baseline Testing Results
Linked here is the survey tool all nursing facilities must use to report the completion of baseline universal testing of all residents and staff no later than July 24.

Facilities must report in the survey tool within 48 hours of completing the baseline test.

Update for SNF Providers on DOH Reopening and Visitation Guidance
Thank you to those who joined us for this week’s call to discuss the DOH visitation/reopening guidance

For our SNF members: we have received additional clarification and answers to a few pertinent questions. The questions and answers are below:

  • Does the facility have to wait 28 more days after the county turns green?
    Not necessarily. Per the guidance, facilities must reside in a yellow or green zone + meet all other prerequisites to move into reopening. Please review Appendix B in the FAQ document for a Prerequisite Checklist to ensure compliance with the guidance.
  • Any additional guidance on barber/beauty?
    Barbers/hairstylists are considered non-essential personnel and should follow the Governor’s Business Guidance in addition to the SNF guidance. 
  • The guidance indicates that providers must screen staff before entering.  Do you have to screen after shifts, too?
    No.
  • If PCH and NH are under the same roof can they be at different steps?
    Yes. The distinction is based on the license, and the movement of residents between facility types is defined as “cross-over visitation” in the guidance. 
  • When a facility gets a positive case and has gone to the second step, does that start the 14-day clock, does that start on the date of the positive test or onset of symptoms?
    Upon confirmation of a positive case, the facility must go back to visitation, dining and activity guidance described in Sections 4 and 5 of the SNF guidance. This guidance does not allow for visitation, communal dining, or communal activities except in some cases. Facilities should use the date of the confirmed positive to “start the clock.” All prerequisites must again be met to move into Step 1 of reopening.
  • Staffing – can they still count the temporary nurse aides or is that part of the contingency/crisis plan?
    Temporary staff can be counted with regular staff for the day to meet the 2.7 PPD.
  • Must the implementation plan be in place through steps 1, 2, 3 – does it have to be fully comprehensive or can they add as they go? For instance, have steps 1 and 2 but sketchy on step 3, can providers begin visitation?
    An implementation plan must include all three steps to be considered complete. However, a facility may amend its plan to further enhance step 3 once they begin reopening.
  • Please confirm what constitutes an outbreak? Please delineate by staff and residents.
    For purposes of this guidance, an outbreak is defined as two or more cases of COVID-19 (resident and/or staff) that are found to be linked.
  • Is a separate reopening implementation plan required for each licensed entity?
    The distinction is based on the license, and the movement of residents between facility types is defined as “cross-over visitation” in the guidance. 
  • If there is a new facility onset in the facility when does the 14-day count begin? Date of positive test, date became symptomatic, or some other date?
    Upon confirmation of a positive case, the facility must go back to visitation, dining, and activity guidance described in Sections 4 and 5 of the SNF guidance. This guidance does not allow for visitation, communal dining, or communal activities except in some cases. Facilities should use the date of the confirmed positive to “start the clock.” All prerequisites must again be met to move into Step 1 of reopening the following 14 consecutive days with new facility onset of COVID-19.

We know this is a great deal of information, and questions will likely arise as you work through your reopening implementation plan.

So please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher, or Kevin Cysyk on our staff with any questions or concerns.

PHCA Develops Reopening Resource to Assist Skilled Nursing Facilities, AL/PC Communities
Linked here is a new reopening resource developed by PHCA to highlight the requirements around visitation and outline some key points to consider as you develop your visitation protocols. We hope this will be helpful to your facilities and communities.

In addition, DOH has added a new section to their website specific to visitation policies. This may be helpful as you share information with your resident’s families regarding the reopening process.

 

 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020 – 7:06 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 636 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 18 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 87,242.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

An important update:

Update for AL/PC on DHS Reopening and Visitation Guidance
Linked here is a document that includes all the Q&A discussed during yesterday’s PHCA call, as well as the answers provided by BHSL. This may be helpful to have on hand as you begin to prepare your reopening plan.

Additionally, we’ve requested a meeting with the Regional Response Health Collaborative in each region to discuss how the RRHCs can assist in preparing for potential future outbreaks. This applies to skilled nursing providers as well.

During next week’s PHCA AL/PC committee call, Wilmarie Gonzalez – RRHC contract lead – will be joining us to provide an update on the program. Following the committee call, we will coordinate a broader call for providers with each individual health system.

If you have any specific questions you would like to be sure are addressed next week, please send them to us as soon as you can.

We continue to reach out to the Department of Health to get additional clarification for our skilled providers.

 

 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 – 8:51 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 618 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 126 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 86,606.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

In addition, DOH launched an online early warning monitoring dashboard that provides information statewide and county COVID-19 prevalence to track increases on a weekly basis.

A few important updates:

PHCA Calls to Discuss Visitation and Reopening Guidance
Thank you to those who joined us for today’s calls to discuss the DOH and DHS visitation/reopening guidance
For our AL/PC members: we have received additional clarification and answers to a few pertinent questions asked during today’s call from BHSL. The questions and answers are below:

  • Please confirm what constitutes an outbreak?
    An outbreak would be any first new case.
  • Please confirm what constitutes a significant outbreak?
    This is subjective to the facility to some extent – five positive cases in a very large facility would not be as significant as five positive cases in a very small facility.  
  • In the reopening document, it notes the following “the Department will inspect those PCHs, ALRs, and ICFs that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak prior to reopening to ensure the facility is adequately preventing transmission of COVID-19.”  Please explain which PCHs and ALRs will fall under this requirement. Is it any PCH/ALR that had an outbreak at any time during the pandemic?
    This language should have been “may” – we will determine this as needed and do not intend to inspect each home before it can open.  This will be clarified in the FAQ. 
  • If there are multiple licensed entities on a campus, can each licensed entity be in a different Step, based on their Reopening Implementation Plan?
    Yes.
  • Is a separate Reopening Implementation Plan required for each licensed entity?
    If they intend to approach the criteria and protocols in the same way for all facilities, they can create one plan that references the facilities included. 
  • According to the document the community requires the Reopening Implementation Plan to include a “plan to allow visitation to begin, pursuant to the guidance provided in Section 6d “ Visitation Requirements,” no later than 28 days after the date the county in which the facility is located moved into the green phase and all other prerequisite criteria are met. An additional 10 days is allowable if needed to address the risks and complications of the facility’s current situation.” Given that a number of counties went into the green phase in late May and early June, this may not provide facilities adequate time to develop a comprehensive plan. If a facility is not able to meet that timeframe, what steps should the facility take to address? What guidance can be offered as to how to address this situation with their residents’ families?
    One of the prerequisites is to have an implementation plan, as well as meet the criteria for no positive cases in 14 days or universal testing, and have adequate staffing  Due to our delay in issuing, my recommendation would be to try to have a plan in place within the next two weeks if possible.  
  •  If a PCH/ALR conducted baseline testing prior to June 12th are they able to obtain a waiver related to the requirement that testing must be done between June 12 and August 31st?  If so what is the process for requesting that waiver?
    They can just email me when they completed their testing, and whether or not there have been any positive results since then. A formal waiver is not required.
  • To move to Step 1, is it required that baseline testing be completed or that they have a plan to conduct baseline testing in compliance with the order for testing?
    The facility can enter Step 1 once they have a plan in place.
  • Does the facility onset of a new COVID-19 case include either a resident or a staff member? Resident.
  • If there is a new facility onset in the facility when does the 14-day count begin?  Date of positive test, date became symptomatic, or some other date?
    A positive test.
  • Any assistance on how a facility can handle families that refuse to abide by the home’s rules related to visitation? Of particular concern is in communities where the PCH and an Independent Living Units are in the same building.
    No – other than trying to explain the intent to ensure health and safety.
  • Regarding the Regional Response Health Collaborative, our members would appreciate the opportunity to have a call with the RRHCs in each region to share what needs they have and how the RRHCs can assist them in preparing for potential future outbreaks around cohorting, testing, etc. Is this something that can be arranged?
    Yes.  

This is certainly a great deal of information to digest. We’ll continue to seek additional clarification from DHS and DOH on these issues.

For our skilled providers, we have a list of questions that will now be sent to DOH, and we’ll keep you updated on those responses.

In the meantime, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher, or Kevin Cysyk on our staff with any questions or concerns.

FYI – National Guard Universal Testing Scam Taking Place in Virginia
Earlier today, one of our members with facilities in Virginia alerted us to a potential universal testing scam.

The administrator of the facility received a phone call from someone who introduced himself as a representative from the National Guard who was tasked by the Department of Health to perform universal baseline COVID-19 testing at the facility. The individual on the phone was very convincing. Upon calling the Department of Health to confirm, the administrator learned that it was a scam.

While the Department of Health IS working with the National Guard to perform testing in situations where a community/facility does not have the resources to do so, there are people who are using this concept to obtain critical financial information. The individual might contact a community/facility in order to obtain the appropriate information in advance that would be needed to “process Medicare/Insurance claims” – social security #, date of birth, etc., and then use the information instead to create false identities.

If you receive calls like this, please let us know, and we can confirm with DOH or DHS.

 

 

Monday, June 29, 2020 – 7:21 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 492 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 122 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 85,988.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Joins CMS Administrator Verma, Surgeon General Adams for Roundtable Discussion in Philadelphia
This afternoon, PHCA joined Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and VADM Jerome M. Adams, U.S. Surgeon General, both members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities, and the response from long-term care providers across the state.

Today’s discussion with Administrator Verma and Surgeon General Adams was a terrific opportunity to discuss many of the challenges facing Pennsylvania’s long-term care communities throughout the COVID-19 response and to identify ways to collaborate and work with our federal partners to prepare for a potential second surge this fall.

I can’t recall a time when a previous administration — at the federal or state level — has reached out to listen and to learn about the many issues facing nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania.

During the discussion, PHCA providers identified several opportunities for increased collaboration from federal and state partners to support them in the fight against COVID-19, including:

  • help improving testing accessibility
  • a dedicated funding stream to support ongoing universal testing and ongoing increased supply and expenses as a result of COVID-19
  • review of regulatory requirements
  • staffing and training program waivers
  • identifying and eliminating burdensome requirements
  • streamlining and standardizing approach to surveys

It was an extremely productive discussion and we’re grateful to Administrator Verma and Surgeon General Adams for giving a voice to Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities.

REMINDER: DOH and DHS Release Visitation/Reopening Guidance
PHCA will be hosting calls for our membership tomorrow – Tuesday, June 30 – to talk through the long-awaited visitation guidance for skilled nursing facilities and AL/PC communities released by the Department of Health and Department of Human Services last Friday.

We’ll also be discussing the reopening plan template and reopening FAQ document posted to the Department of Health Message Board this morning.

Call-in information is below:

June 30 at 10:30 a.m.: AL/PC members

  • Dial-in: 1-888-585-9008
  • Conference room number: 269-300-330

June 30 at 3 p.m.: skilled nursing members

  • Dial-in: 1-888-585-9008
  • Conference Room Number: 269-300-330

As a quick summary, DOH and DHS are requiring all facilities/communities to meet several prerequisites before proceeding into the ‘official’ three-step process of reopening. Facilities must:

  • Develop an implementation plan and post that plan to the facility’s website, if the facility has a website, that specifies how the reopening and visitation requirements will be met.
  • Administer tests within 24 hours of a resident showing COVID-19 symptoms and complete baseline testing.
  • Develop a plan to allow visitation that includes scheduling and other safety measures.
  • Develop a plan for cohorting or isolating residents diagnosed with the virus.
  • Establish and adhere to written screening protocols for all staff during each shift, each resident daily, and all persons entering the facility.
  • Have adequate staffing and supply of personal protective equipment for all staff.
  • Be located in a county that is either in the yellow or green phase (all counties now meet that requirement).

Once you meet the required prerequisites, your facility will enter a three-step process of reopening:

  • Step One: From the date the facility enters step one, a facility must maintain no new COVID-19 cases among staff or residents and have no spread in the facility for 14 consecutive days in order to enter step two.
  • Step Two: While in step two, facilities are required to maintain no new cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents and have no spread in the facility for 14 consecutive days to progress into the final step.
  • Step Three: The final step allows LTCFs to operate as outlined for the remainder of the disaster declaration as long as there are no new COVID-19 cases among staff and residents for 14 consecutive days.

Visitations will only be allowed in steps two and three, but it does appear as though communal dining and activities can begin (in moderation) in step one.

We will continue to analyze this guidance and communicate questions and interpretations with both departments.

In the meantime, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher, or Kevin Cysyk on our staff with any questions or concerns.

 

 

Friday, June 26, 2020 – 8:16 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 600 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 21 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 84,370.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA to Join CMS Administrator Verma, Surgeon General for Roundtable Discussion in Philadelphia
We’re very proud to announce that, this Monday, we and representatives from our membership will join CMS Administrator Seema Verma and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, both members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, in Philadelphia for a roundtable discussion on long-term care.

Specifically, we will be sharing the impact of COVID-19 on our facilities, and the response from long-term care providers across the state. Additionally, we’ll be communicating our priorities moving forward, so that we can ensure our facilities are prepared for a resurgence or ‘second wave’ of the virus this fall.

This is a terrific opportunity for PHCA and our membership, and we look forward to meeting with Administrator Verma, Surgeon General Adams and representing long-term care across Pennsylvania.

We will share more with on you Monday afternoon.

DHS Releases Testing Guidelines for Assisted Living and Personal Care
Late this afternoon, the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Human Services, issued an expanded testing order to include personal care homes, assisted living communities and intermediate care facilities. Additional information, including testing FAQs and testing requirements, were also issued.

It’s important to note that AL/PC members are required to complete a baseline universal test for all residents and staff no later than August 31. That universal test includes any resident or staff person who has never been tested, as well as any resident or staff person who was tested prior to June 12th and whose test result was negative.

Please reach out to PHCA with any testing questions or recommendations.

DOH and DHS Release Visitation/Reopening Guidance
In addition to the testing mandate, both DOH and DHS released their long-awaited visitation guidance for skilled nursing facilities and AL/PC communities.

Based on our initial review, visitation will be contingent on the completion of baseline testing. Communal dining and group activities may begin but to a very limited extent. We will continue to review this new guidance and share more as we speak to the state.

To help answer any questions you might have, we’ll be hosting two separate calls for our skilled nursing and AL/PC members this Tuesday (June 30th). If you can join us, please do. Call-in information is below:

June 30 at 10:30 a.m.: AL/PC members

  • Dial-in: 1-888-585-9008
  • Conference room number: 269-300-330

June 30 at 3 p.m.: skilled nursing members

  • Dial-in: 1-888-585-9008
  • Conference Room Number: 269-300-330

In the meantime, please reach out to Gail WeidmanChris Fisher or Kevin Cysyk on our staff with any questions or concerns.

 

 

Thursday, June 25, 2020 – 8:15 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 579 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 87 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 83,770.

Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine also signed amended green phase orders for 12 counties moving to green tomorrow, June 26th. These counties are: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia and Susquehanna.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA and HCR ManorCare Call for ‘Collaboration’ During Committee Hearings
This morning, both PHCA and HCR ManorCare testified before the PA House and Senate Aging Committees on long-term care and the COVID-19 response.

We doubled down on our calls for collaboration and support from state officials, especially as you and your staff continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and take steps to prepare for a potential resurgence in the fall. You can read our PHCA testimony here.

If we’ve learned anything over the last several months, it’s that long-term care must have a seat at the table and be given priority in Pennsylvania. Providers deserve to be heard, not ignored, especially when you know, first-hand, what comes with standing on the front lines of a pandemic.

We also want to thank Denise Curry, vice president and general manager of the eastern division at HCR ManorCare (and member of the PHCA Board of Directors), for stepping up to testify on behalf of providers across the state. You can read Denise’s testimony here.

We’ll have testimony video to share in the coming days.

Department of Aging to Offer Free Online Abuse Training
The Department of Aging is offering a free training on mandatory abuse reporting under OAPS and APS. This online program is not required but may be a good resource for nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living residences to use as part of onboarding and annual abuse training requirements.

To access this training, click here.

Advocacy Efforts Underway at the Federal Level to Help with Testing
As there becomes an increased focus on the need for priority testing of long-term care workers and residents, AHCA/NCAL is working to identify challenges and advocate for more availability and clearer guidance on how testing should be used and reimbursed on the national level.

If you’re able, we ask that you complete this survey on test availability in your facility before Monday, June 29. The survey should take only a few minutes to complete.

PHCA Launches New Leadership Webinar Series
This July, PHCA will be launching an interactive, five-part virtual leadership series designed for current leaders, administrators, management or high-potential leaders who are currently working in a supervisory role or are poised to do so in the next 6-12 months, with a focus on the unique challenges of healthcare.

This series will be offered in partnership with Radiant & Resilient Leadership. The cost of the five-part leadership webinar series is $50. All series participants are eligible to earn up to five CEUs.

To learn more or to register, click here.

 

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020 – 6:54 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 495 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 15 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 83,191.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Get Assistance with the Provider Relief Fund Medicaid Portal
AHCA/NCAL has drafted a tips sheet and step-by-step guide for providers on how to successfully navigate the new Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal for non-SNF Medicaid Providers. Earlier this week, HHS made several updates to the Provider Relief Fund FAQs.

Tomorrow, HHS will be offering a webinar on the Medicaid Allocation application process.

DHS Provides Clarification on CARES Act Payments for Multi-Facility Companies
For the nearly $300 million state dollars that were recently allocated to PA providers, DHS has told us they can process a single check for multiple facilities.

To do this, it is recommended that the entity enter the total amount (for all facilities) in the “subsidy amount” box on the facility acceptance form and complete the name, address, EIN, and contact info based on the entity receiving the check. The entity can use a separate page to list the individual facilities and amounts.

This message was delivered to our Payment for Services Committee earlier today.

We have also confirmed payment amounts for SNF and AL/PC providers. The information should be posted online shortly.

Please note: The department has issued a revised facility acceptance form. This updated form should be used by all nursing facilities AND AL/PC providers.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman on our staff.

DOH and DHS Visitation Guidance Forthcoming
PHCA has been told to expect guidance from DOH and DHS by the end of this week regarding visitation and reopening SNFs and AL/PC communities. Our staff has been working with the state to recommend best practices, share what other states are doing (Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, etc. have opened outdoor visitation), and voice suggestions from our members.

We hope to be able to share this guidance with you in the coming days. We know how important it is for your residents to see their loved ones, participate in communal dining and activities, etc.

REMINDER: DOH to Partner with CVS to Offer Testing Services for Nursing Homes
Last week, we told you the Department of Health announced a partnership with CVS to offer COVID-19 testing services in nursing homes. The Department is using data to provide a three-tiered priority list to CVS to begin making contacts to offer free testing services to facilities.

CVS plans to conduct 50,000 tests for nursing home residents and staff over the next 30 days. This will begin next week.

Facilities have been broken into one of three groups based on prioritization criteria:

  • Phase 1 – NFs with first, new or on-going outbreak
  • Phase 2 – NFs with a history of a resolved outbreak
  • Phase 3 – NFs with no outbreaks

Outreach calls to facility administrators began earlier this week.

Please note: if you haven’t received a call, your facility is likely in Phase 2 or 3. We are strongly recommending that facilities in Phase 2 or 3 procure their own testing…don’t wait for CVS, as the July 24th deadline is approaching quickly.

New CMS Webinar: PPE Strategies for COVID Care
Tomorrow at 4 pm, CMS will be hosting a webinar for nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff members, and others interested in nursing home infection prevention on the use of PPE for infection prevention.

Space for this webinar is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

PHCA and HCR ManorCare to Testify Before PA House and Senate Tomorrow
Beginning at 10 am tomorrow morning, both PHCA and HCR ManorCare will be testifying before the PA House and Senate Aging Committees on long-term care and the COVID-19 response.

We want to thank Denise Curry, Vice President/General Manager of the Eastern Division at HCR ManorCare (and member of the PHCA Board of Directors), for stepping up to testify on behalf of providers across the state.

 

 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 – 5:58 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 510 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 54 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 82,696.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

HHS Updates Provider Relief Fund FAQs
On June 22, the federal HHS made several updates to the Provider Relief Fund FAQs. Additionally, this Thursday, June 25, HHS will be offering webinars on the Medicaid Allocation application process.

To register for one of the webinars, click here.

DHS Provides Clarification on Facility Acceptance Form Released Yesterday
In yesterday’s daily update, we alerted all AL/PC providers that the Department of Human Services is preparing for the distribution of critical emergency funding as one-time payments to providers. As a reminder, all AL/PC providers must complete the facility acceptance form and supply the federal tax identification number (FEIN) and return it to the Department of Human Services in order to receive payment.

To ensure the process would work for our providers, we submitted several questions to the Department to receive clarification. They were:

  • If a nursing facility and personal care home have the same Tax ID number, will that cause an issue with payment to the personal care home?
    The same tax ID will not be a problem. We (DHS) need it to process the PCH invoice in SAP, and SAP requires it for 1099 reporting purposes. On that note, whichever entity handles the tax filings for the tax ID number should expect to receive a Form 1099 from the commonwealth for the current tax year.
  • In the form, there is a reference to a June 1st letter – can you share a copy of that letter?
    The reference to a June 1 letter is incorrect. The form should instead say “…as outlined by the provisions of Act 2020-24.” We (DHS) will update the form and make the correct version available ASAP.
  • The Acceptance Form has a field for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania subsidy amount – can the provider send the form before they have that information, or should they wait until the payments are posted so they can complete that field?
    It is recommended they wait and enter the amount. We will share additional details as soon as they are finalized.

There are, obviously, a few outstanding issues. As soon as we are notified this information has been posted, we will share these updates with you.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman on our staff.

New CMS Webinar: PPE Strategies for COVID Care
This Thursday at 4 pm, CMS will be hosting a webinar for nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff members, and others interested in nursing home infection prevention on the use of PPE for infection prevention, how to use an audit tool for tracking compliance in the proper use of PPE and practices and strategies to consider for PPE supply and use.

Space for this webinar is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

New PHCA Webinar: Managing Stress During Challenging Times
Join us for our next PHCA webinar this Thursday, June 25 as we tackle a topic that’s very relevant for long-term care staff:

Managing Stress During Challenging Times
Thursday, June 25 – 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
This webinar is for skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care. 

All webinar attendees will receive .5 CEU credits. To register, click here.

 

 

Monday, June 22, 2020 – 5:48 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 456 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of eight cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 82,186.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Update on Critical Emergency Funding for SNFs and AL/PC
Late last month, Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved House Bill 2510, which included $245 million in emergency funding for Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, as well as $50 million for our AL/PC communities.

Payments to nursing homes will be posted on the DHS website today or tomorrow, with a payment date of July 1. With this in mind, we wanted to share more details on the allocation of these payments.

Eighty percent of the nursing home funding will be distributed based on Medicaid days for Q3 2019. The remaining 20% will be distributed based on the number of licensed beds (as of March 31, 2020). We fought hard to ensure this payment would be largely based on your high Medicaid population.

For AL/PC providers, payments will be calculated by licensed occupancy (as determined by the DHS’ most recent inspection on or before April 1, 2020). OLTL is preparing for the distribution of the funds as one-time payments to AL/PC providers.

All AL/PC providers are required to complete this form and supply their federal tax identification number (FEIN) in order for payment to be made and return to the Department at the following: covidpayments@pa.gov by July 31. Providers may also fax the form to the OLTL Bureau of Finance at 717-787-2145.

Again, for our AL/PC providers: please complete that form and send it in to the Department to ensure you receive payment.

The Department has told PHCA (and providers) that it will be critically important to track increased staffing and supply costs related to COVID-19, as well as the use of federal and state dollars to cover these costs. In fact, the federal government is mandating it for stimulus funds.

As a reminder, PHCA developed this tracker to help you monitor these costs at the facility level. Note: This tracker is a basic template. We’ve also added blank cells with formulas for you to populate with any expenditures not captured.

In addition, AHCA has developed a COVID-19 Loss/Cost Calculator (member login required) for your use.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Zane Barrick on our staff.

AHCA Advocates for Additional Emergency Funding from HHS
Today, the American Health Care Association began advocating for an additional round of funding for long-term care facilities, with the focus on ‘hotspots’. This funding request is consistent with the funding tranche hospitals previously received.

They have formally recommended $25,000 per infected resident, retroactive to the start of the pandemic, to every skilled nursing provider that will deal with COVID-19 in their facilities in 2020.

We will share more as soon as we have additional information. And we’ll begin reaching out to members of Congress to advocate for this important initiative.

Pennsylvania House Names Bryan Cutler Next Speaker
Earlier today, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives elected Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) to serve as Speaker of the House. This change comes after Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) formally resigned and left the House of Representatives last Monday.

We look forward to working with Rep. Cutler and his new leadership team, and we’ll continue advocating on your behalf here in Harrisburg.

 

Friday, June 19, 2020 – 6:03 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 526 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of seven cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 80,762.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Additionally, 12 more counties will move to the green phase of Governor Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 reopening plan starting next Friday, June 26: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lancaster, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Susquehanna.

A few important updates:

DOH, PEMA to Partner with CVS to Offer Testing Services for Nursing Homes

Earlier today, the Department of Heath and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency announced their partnership with CVS to offer COVID-19 testing services to nursing homes.

The Department is using data sources to provide a three-tiered priority list to CVS to begin making contacts to offer free testing services to facilities.

CVS plans to conduct 50,000 tests for nursing home residents and staff over the next 30 days. This will begin the week of June 29. Facilities will be broken into one of three groups based on prioritization criteria:

Outbreak Status
Phase 1 – NFs with first, new or on-going outbreak
Phase 2 – NFs with a history of resolved outbreak
Phase 3 – NFs with no outbreaks

Outreach calls to facility administrators will begin this Monday, June 22. After being tested, the lab will process the samples and return results in two to three days via electronic submission.

We don’t know which facilities are being included in Phase 1, so stay tuned for more details

New DOH Notice Threatens Penalties/Fines for Misreporting or Not Reporting to Survey123 Tool

Last night, DOH issued a notice on their messaging board, stating that failure by SNF administrators to report accurately (or at all) to the Survey123 tool would result in action taken against a facility. It further notes that any person who violates any order or regulation of the Department is guilty of a summary offense, the penalty of which is a maximum fine of $300.00 per day or a period of 30 days in prison.

Yes, that’s correct: 30 days in prison for misreporting to the Survey123 tool.

First, we are recommending that you report to the Survey123 tool—please let us know if you’re not. And if you need assistance with reporting, your issues/questions should be directed to the Department’s RA account: RA-dhsnfquestion@pa.gov. Tell them why you can’t comply, and keep documentation in your records.

We’ve asked for a list of facilities that have yet to comply.

Second, we will be addressing this with DOH. But before we do, It would be very helpful to know if you have been contacted for incorrect/insufficient reporting prior to today. Please let us know.

You can view the full letter here.

AHCA/NCAL Informational Webinar on EIPs for Social Security and SSI Beneficiaries

Please check out the recent AHCA/NCAL webinar recording on economic impact payments (EIPs) from the IRS, which began issuing electronic EIPs around April 15 to people who received a tax refund electronically. This webinar covers what EIPs are and what steps we should take to protect beneficiaries receiving this benefit.

The recording also covers such areas as whether a resident can give their EIP funds to a family member and what to do if EIP funds are being misused.

If you have any questions on EIPs, please email COVID19@ahca.org.

 

Thursday, June 18, 2020 – 8:12 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 418 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 83 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 80,236.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Pennsylvania Launches Regional Response Health Collaboration Program
Over the next few weeks, Pennsylvania will be launching a new program to help aid in the COVID-19 response: the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program, or RRHCP. The RRHCP is designed to directly support COVID-19 readiness and response in long-term care facilities.

This was an initiative shepherded by Speaker Mike Turzai just before his resignation. The RHCCP is supposed to provide help with infection control, contact tracing programs, telemedicine services, remote monitoring and consultation, and enhance testing capability for both residents and staff.

The RRHCP is based on the Educational Support and Clinical Coaching Program (ESCCP), a learning network that provides technical assistance and educational support to long-term care facilities in light of the current pandemic.

An RFA went out last week, and the state will be split into six different regions to identify groups or systems to run these collaboratives. Specific details are scarce on this now, but we expect to be at the table as the program is designed.

New PHCA Webinar: Managing Stress During Challenging Times
Please join us for next week’s upcoming webinar, as we tackle a topic that’s very relevant for long-term care staff.

Managing Stress During Challenging Times
Thursday, June 25 – 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
This webinar is for skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care. 

All webinar attendees will receive .5 CEU credits.

PHCA Convention Announcement Coming Soon
Stay tuned for details for our upcoming annual convention, which is set to take place this November.

We can’t wait to share our news with you!

 

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 – 7:33 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 335 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 27 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 79,818.

During this afternoon’s COVID briefing with Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, Governor Tom Wolf announced that CDC proprietary data indicates Pennsylvania is one of just three states that has had a downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases for more than 42 days. The other two states are Montana and Hawaii.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

AHCA and PHCA Cost Calculator Resources Available
As emergency funding is distributed to facilities over the next several weeks, it is critically important that providers appropriately track the increased staffing and supply costs related to COVID-19, as well as the use of federal and state dollars to cover these costs.

In fact, the federal government is mandating it for stimulus funds.

As a reminder, PHCA developed this tracker to help you monitor these costs at the facility level.

Note: This tracker is a basic template. We’ve also added blank cells with formulas for you to populate with any expenditures not captured.

In addition, AHCA has developed a COVID-19 Loss/Cost Calculator (member login required) for your use.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Chris FisherGail Weidman or Zane Barrick on our staff to discuss.

REMINDER: CHC and CMS to Host COVID-Related Webinars This Week
This Thursday, June 18 at 1:30 pm, Community HealthChoices will be hosting its Third Thursday webinar. The Office of Long-Term Living’s (OLTL) new Deputy Secretary, Jamie Buchenauer, will be providing updates on COVID-19.

To register for the webinar, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

On Thursday at 4 pm, CMS will be hosting a webinar for nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff, and others in nursing home infection prevention outlining clinical management practices for COVID-positive and presumed COVID-positive residents.

Space for the CMS webinar is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

PharMerica Offering FREE Webinar: Palliative Care in Long-Term Care
PharMerica, a PHCA platinum sponsor, is offering a free webinar next Tuesday, June 23 at 1 pm to help long-term care providers gain an understanding of the key differences between palliative care and hospice care and learn the models of palliative care delivery.

Webinar attendees will receive 1 CEU credit. To register, click here.

 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020 – 8:23 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 362 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 39 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 79,483.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DOH Universal Testing Presentation and Approved Testing Resource Available
During today’s provider call, the Department of Health made a presentation regarding the universal testing mandate for nursing homes, including helpful hints, best practices and scenarios to assist you in meeting the testing order released last week.

As a reminder, the Department released this list of labs approved to process COVID-19 samples. We have been told this list will be updated weekly, and remember: your lab must be approved by PA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors or need any recommendations, please contact Chris Fisher on our PHCA staff.

New Resources From CDC: NHSN and COCA Webinars Available
Linked here are slides from the CDC NSHN data quality webinar, which focused on reporting data and the CDC NHSN module, and the COCA webinar, which focused on infection prevention and control strategies in nursing homes.

These presentations were previously shared with our committees. If you have any questions about these resources, please contact Chris Fisher.

REMINDER: CHC and CMS to Host COVID-Related Webinars This Week
This Thursday, June 18 at 1:30 pm, Community HealthChoices will be hosting its Third Thursday webinar. The Office of Long-Term Living’s (OLTL) new Deputy Secretary, Jamie Buchenauer, will be providing updates on COVID-19.

To register for the webinar, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

On Thursday at 4 pm, CMS will be hosting a webinar for nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff, and others in nursing home infection prevention outlining clinical management practices for COVID-positive and presumed COVID-positive residents.

Space for the CMS webinar is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

 

Monday, June 15, 2020 – 7:51 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 323 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 13 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 79,121.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

New DOH Testing Resource Available
When DOH issued a universal testing mandate for all nursing home residents and staff, PHCA requested an approved list of commercial lab vendors to help you meet the July 24th deadline.

Today, the Department sent us this list of labs approved to process COVID-19 samples. We have been told this list will be updated weekly.

As a reminder, your lab must be PA approved for your universal testing to ‘count’ by July 24th.

If you have any questions about testing vendors or need any recommendations, please contact Chris Fisher on our staff.

Community HealthChoices, OLTL to Host Third Thursday Webinar
This Thursday, June 18 at 1:30 pm, Community HealthChoices will be hosting its Third Thursday webinar. The Office of Long-Term Living’s (OLTL) new Deputy Secretary, Jamie Buchenauer, will be providing updates on COVID-19.

To register for the webinar, click here.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

CMS to Host Webinar on Managing COVID-Positive Residents
This Thursday at 4 pm, CMS will be hosting a webinar for nursing home leaders, clinical and administrative staff, and others in nursing home infection prevention outlining clinical management practices for COVID-positive and presumed COVID-positive residents.

Space is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

 

Friday, June 12, 2020 – 7:10 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 686 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 219 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 77,999.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Additionally, Governor Tom Wolf signed green phase orders for eight additional counties starting next Friday, June 19: Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Monroe, Perry, Pike, and Schuylkill.

A few important updates:

Recommendations for Compliance with CMS/NHSN Reporting Requirement
When SNFs were required to register for CMS’ new NHSN reporting database, only one user was required to register. Since the initial registration period, we’ve received guidance from CMS that it is recommended you link more than one authorized user to your facility’s account.

To add an additional authorized user to your facility account, follow these instructions:

  • After selecting NHSN reporting, please go to the left navigational bar and click on Users>ADD and complete the required fields (marked with *) and SAVE at the bottom of the page.
  • You will then be prompted to assign the new user rights that they will need to utilize NHSN.
  • Click on SAVE at the bottom of page.
  • Please check to ensure that you have made them an Active User.

This should help to avoid issues in the weeks to come. This is not a requirement, only a suggestion.

Additionally, CMS reports that there are a few common issues they have discovered in the NHSN reporting so far, including:

  • facilities not entering the right CCN
  • facilities not selecting the right facility type
  • facilities entering data after the Sunday deadline, but for the reporting week, and
  • facilities entering data during the week but for previous week’s data

There are more steps you can take now to ensure your data is being uploaded correctly:

  • Check to make sure that your CCN number is correct
  • Check to ensure that your facility type is correct
  • Ensure that you are submitting data prior to 11:59 p.m. each Sunday
  • Data submitted should be new data since the previous submission. Do not enter cumulative data in NHSN.
  • Enter zero (0) if the answer is zero for questions requiring counts. Blank data elements equal missing data. All pathways must be completed.

Finally, CMS has stated that they intend to be fair on reviewing IDRs for citations and CMPs issued as part of this reporting regulation, as long as providers can show that they did submit the data or have been trying to register or submit the data but had delays in resolving challenges because of CDC’s helpline being overwhelmed with requests.

Additional Clarification on SNF Mandatory Testing Order
Since DOH released its universal testing order on Monday, we’ve received a number of questions regarding compliance with the order. We’ve communicated those questions, and we received some clarification today:

  • Are providers supposed to report individual information or aggregated information? It appears the order meant to say each SNF shall report COVID-19 test results by individual facilities.
    Facilities must report aggregate numbers in the survey that they complete once universal testing has been executed. 
  • Some facilities are having difficulties obtaining a physician order for employee testing. Is it possible to get an order from Dr. Levine?
    The Department is not pursuing a standing order from Dr. Levine at this time. Employees should work with their Medical Director, Primary Care Provider, or another healthcare provider to obtain an order.
  • Will the department consider issuing a waiver or extending the deadline given some facilities are having difficulties identifying vendors, securing testing materials or contracting with commercial labs?
    There is no waiver. Facilities should reach out via appropriate contacts provided in the order if assistance is needed.

We still have not received any additional information regarding a testing order for assisted living communities or personal care homes. As soon as this guidance is made available, we will share it with you.

If you have any additional questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman and Chris Fisher.

Updated Testing Resource Available
As a reminder, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – updated as of yesterday, June 11. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher.

 

 

Thursday, June 11, 2020 – 7:27 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 467 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 57 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 77,313.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Additionally, Governor Tom Wolf signed green phase orders for 12 counties starting tomorrow, June 12: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York.

A few important updates:

CMS to Begin Issuing Citations and CMPs for Failure to Report NHSN COVID-19 Data
This week, CMS began issuing 2567s with F-level citations with a $1,000 per instance CMP to all SNFs identified as not having submitted data or submitting incomplete data to NHSN for the week of June 1-7.

The notifications of deficiency and CMP are being sent via the CASPER/QIES system (not the traditional method for notifying a facility with a deficiency). Facilities must log in to CASPER to see if they have a citation.

If you are concerned about the process for submitting data to NHSN, we urge you to register for the NHSN data quality webinar scheduled for next Tuesday, June 16 at 1 p.m. This webinar will include a walkthrough of strategies to help providers ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 data submitted to NHSN, including avoiding common mistakes, identifying data entry errors and fixing these errors.

Space is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

If you were issued a citation and need help, please let us know.

SNFs Reminded to Review CDC Contract Tracking and Tracing Guidance
During today’s provider call with the Department of Health, the department reminded all facilities to review the CDC guidance on contact tracking and tracing. In addition, facilities must document all screenings conducted.

The CDC guidance, as well as the contact tracing documentation spreadsheet, can be found here.

Updated Testing Resource Available
As a reminder, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – updated as of today, June 11. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher.

 

 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 – 7:49 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 410 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 83 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 76,846.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

This afternoon, Pennsylvania’s Speaker of the House, Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County), formally announced he would be resigning his post as Speaker and his seat in the state House of Representatives. His last day will be this Monday, June 15.

The Speaker has been a friend to PHCA, as well as long-term care, for the better part of the last twenty years. He will certainly be missed.

A few important updates:

Our Advocacy Efforts Continue
We may have secured nearly $300 million in emergency funding for long-term care providers two weeks ago, but our ongoing work to advocate on your behalf continues every day.

This morning, PHCA was the voice of long-term care in the legislature, as we were invited to offer testimony during a public hearing before the House Health Committee. Our testimony focused on the need for continued collaboration and support between state officials and providers. Additionally, we focused on testing and the need for funding support and resources.

We’ll continue to keep you updated on these efforts moving forward.

Updated Testing Resource Now Available
As a reminder, all nursing facilities will be required to test any resident or staff person who has never been tested, as well as any resident or staff person who was tested prior to May 24th and whose result was negative, no later than Friday, July 24.

The Department has indicated its support services are limited and should be considered a ‘last resort’.

Given that, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – updated as of today, June 10. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher. If you have questions about the DOH order, please contact Gail Weidman.

NCAL Conducting Survey to Determine Access to PPE
While the supply chain for personal protective equipment continues to improve for skilled nursing facilities, we understand AL/PC providers may still be having challenges procuring these supplies.

The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL), our national affiliate, is conducting a survey to better understand AL/PC providers’ ability to access personal protective equipment. We know you’re overwhelmed with surveys right now, but this is important to understand how to quantify the availability of PPE for all AL/PC providers.

Please complete the survey by next Wednesday, June 17. Take about 5-10 minutes to review your supply inventory and determine how soon you may run out of PPE before completing the survey.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Kevin Cysyk.

NHSN to Hold COVID-19 Data Quality Webinar
Next Tuesday, June 16 at 1 p.m., the NHSN Long-Term Care Facility team will be hosting a data quality webinar to walkthrough strategies to help providers ensure the accuracy of COVID-19 data submitted to NHSN, including avoiding common mistakes, identifying data entry errors and fixing these errors.

Space is limited – you must register in advance.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

 

 

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 – 7:24 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 493 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 142 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 76,436.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

REMINDER: DOH Issues Order Requiring Testing in Nursing Homes
Yesterday, the Department of Health issued a universal testing order requiring all nursing homes to complete baseline testing for residents and staff by no later than July 24.

According to the department’s order, testing must include any resident or staff person who has never been tested as well as any resident or staff person who was tested prior to May 24th and whose result was negative.

The department released additional information on the testing requirements, as well as a frequently asked questions document for your review.

As a reminder: nursing homes will be required to report the testing results, by individual, to DOH via a system that has yet to be designated. This must be done within 48 hours of receipt of the test results. 

Additionally, for those facilities that conducted universal testing prior to this order, you must report the results to DOH within 72 hours of the issuance of the order.

In order to be compliant with this order, facilities unfamiliar with testing must contract with an outside vendor to support universal testing.

If you are unable to find resources, please send an email to ra-dhCOVIDtesting@pa.gov. You will receive an auto-reply with a link to a form to request support from the Department of Health, including assistance with performing testing. The form must be completed in its entirety before submitting it.

Note: The Department has indicated its support services are limited and should be considered a ‘last resort’.

If you need a list of available laboratories for testing, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration – updated as of today, June 9. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher. If you have questions about the DOH order, please contact Gail Weidman.

 

 

Monday, June 8, 2020 – 6:23 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 351 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 155 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 75,943.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

IMPORTANT: DOH Issues Order Requiring Testing in Nursing Homes
Earlier today, the Department of Health issued a universal testing order requiring all nursing homes to complete baseline testing for residents and staff by no later than July 24.

This was the clarification we had been waiting for…the testing ‘strategy’ is now officially a mandate for all nursing homes in PA.

The testing must include any resident or staff person who has never been tested, and any resident or staff person who was tested prior to May 24th and whose result was negative.

The department released additional information on the testing requirements, as well as a frequently asked questions document for your review.

It’s important to note: nursing homes will be required to report the testing results, by individual, to DOH via a system that has yet to be designated. This must be done within 48 hours of receipt of the test results.

Additionally, for those facilities that conducted universal testing prior to this order, you must report the results to DOH within 72 hours of the issuance of the order.

While it hasn’t been officially announced, we expect to see a similar mandate for assisted living and personal care providers. We will share any news related to an AL/PC-specific order as quickly as possible.

The question we’ve been asked most today is: who covers this cost? As of now, the Department of Health has not stated the Commonwealth will pay for universal testing. However, we do know Medicare and Medicaid will cover costs for residents, as will private insurance. With millions of federal CARES Act dollars still coming to states, we have asked for a portion of those dollars to cover testing costs for long-term care.

If you need options and laboratories for testing, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration. Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

There will likely be a number of questions from staff and/or your residents regarding this new testing requirement. We’ve developed these talking points (specifically for staff) to help answer questions or address concerns that may arise.

If you have any questions about testing vendors, please contact Chris Fisher. If you have questions about the DOH order, please contact Gail Weidman.

Tomorrow: New PHCA COVID-19 Webinar
Unintended Consequences: COVID-19 Behavioral Health Issues
Tuesday, June 9, 2020 – noon to 1 p.m.
This webinar is geared towards administrators, executive directors, nurses, social workers and activity directors. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

 

Friday, June 5, 2020 – 5:35 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 443 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease in 94 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 74,385.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Today, Gov. Wolf announced 12 more counties will transition to the GREEN phase on Friday, June 12. These counties are Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Union, Wayne, Wyoming and York.

A few additional updates:

CMS Releases COVID-19 Data, Survey Reports on Nursing Home Compare
Yesterday, CMS updated its Nursing Home Compare database to include individual facility-level data on COVID-19 outbreaks. We have already heard from members that the information included in this data is incorrect.

If the data reported by CMS for your facility is incorrect, please email corrections to the NHSN Help Desk at nhsn@cdc.gov – and include LTCF in the subject line to get first priority. It’s our understanding priority replies typically take between three to seven days.

In addition, you can also email RA-DHHAI@pa.gov – the new state reporting support and notification email address. We’ve been told providers can also send an email to this address if there are issues related to NHSN data.

PHCA Testing Vendor Resource Now Available
New guidance released this week by the Department of Health directed long-term care providers – including nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care residences – to develop relationships with commercial laboratories and develop contracts to meet testing needs.

Given this directive, PHCA has created this list of COVID-19 testing vendors for your consideration.

Commercial testing providers on this list have been vetted and used by other PHCA members, or they have been recommended by our national organization, AHCA.

If you have any questions, please contact Chris Fisher.

REMINDER: PHCA Launches New Education Program to Help You Meet Requirements
While Pennsylvania has extended its continuing education deadline from June 30 to September 28, we know the unique challenges of COVID-19 have made it difficult to meet the state’s continuing education requirements.

That’s why PHCA has partnered with CEUSrEZ – a provider of quality, accessible continuing education opportunities for long-term care professionals for nearly 20 years – to offer online NAB-approved CEUs you can complete when and where is most convenient for you.

To take advantage of these discounted online courses, click here.

 

 

Thursday, June 4, 2020 – 7:39 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 537 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 26 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 73,942.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Governor Tom Wolf renewed the state’s 90-day disaster declaration (it originated on March 6). He also announced the end of our stay-at-home order, which expires tonight at midnight.

Beginning tomorrow, 10 counties will be moving into the yellow phase, and 16 counties will be moving into the green phase. These counties include:

  • YELLOW – Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery and Philadelphia
  • GREEN – Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland

A few important updates:

CMS Releases COVID-19 Data, Survey Reports on Nursing Home Compare
This afternoon, CMS updated its Nursing Home Compare database to include individual facility-level data on COVID-19 outbreaks. CMS also released all nursing home surveys conducted since March 4, when it shifted its inspection strategy to focus solely on targeting infection control violations.

You may receive questions from residents, family members of residents, staff, and/or the media as the reporting required by CMS is different than the reporting required and released by the Department of Health.

If you have any questions regarding how to address these questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Shayna Varner, Director of Communications at PHCA, at svarner@phca.org.

DOH Releases Visitation Guidance for Facilities in Green Counties
Yesterday, the Department of Health released guidance that keeps temporary visitation restrictions in place for skilled nursing facilities in green counties. According to the guidance, these restrictions will remain in place for at least 28 days after a county enters into the green phase.

We will update you as soon as we learn more. If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher.

PHCA Launches New Education Program to Help You Meet Requirements
While Pennsylvania has extended its continuing education deadline from June 30 to September 28, we know the unique challenges of COVID-19 have made it difficult to meet the state’s continuing education requirements.

That’s why PHCA has partnered with CEUSrEZ – a provider of quality, accessible continuing education opportunities for long-term care professionals for nearly 20 years – to offer online NAB-approved CEUs you can complete when and where is most convenient for you.

To take advantage of these discounted online courses, click here.

 

 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 – 7:35 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 511 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease in 101 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 73,405.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Updates from the Office of Long-Term Living
Today, the Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) distributed two updates to providers:

  • Delay of Healthcare-Associated Infection (HAI) Payments. This is to notify nursing facilities that due to COVID-19, OLTL cannot access information necessary to calculate the HAI Payments for MA-11 Cost Reports with acceptance letters normally mailed in March.On March 2, the Department of Health issued letters to nursing facilities to inform them of the Patient Safety Trust Fund surcharge amounts due to DOH. As a result of remote working conditions, DOH is unable to produce a report of payments received from nursing facilities. OLTL requires this report in order to calculate the HAI Payments. Payments will be issued as soon as the report becomes available. OLTL will provide further information when the issue is resolved.
  • 180-Day Claims Exception Requests Process. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Commonwealth employees who work in Dauphin County and the Capitol Complex were instructed to telework, beginning Monday, March 16.  While teleworking, OLTL has reduced access to the physical site where paper mail is delivered. Therefore, OLTL is implementing a temporary change in the processing of 180-Day Claims Exception Requests. OLTL is requesting that providers email their requests and supporting documentation to, RA-ProviderOperation@pa.gov until further notice.

If you have any questions about this communication, please contact the OLTL Provider Helpline at 1-800-932-0939, Option 2.

You can also reach out to Gail Weidman on the PHCA staff.

Upcoming PHCA Webinar on Focused Infection Control Surveys
In light of Monday’s announcement by CMS that it will increase fines as it relates to infection control measures, PHCA will be hosting a webinar to provide the most up-to-date information about what this enhanced enforcement policy means for nursing homes and the strategies you can employ to mitigate potentially crippling new enforcement remedies.

Webinar information is below:

CMS Mandates On-Site Focused Infection Control Surveys: Implications and Strategies
Friday, June 5, 2020 – 11 a.m. to noon
This webinar is for nursing home administrators, directors of nursing, infection preventionists, social workers, environmental services, dietary and the entire nursing home interdisciplinary team. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – 7:33 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 612 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 256 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 72,894.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA to Host Tele-Townhall with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey
Join us tomorrow at 3:45 p.m. for a tele-townhall with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey. During the call, we’ll discuss the challenges facing long-term care providers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be opportunities for us to ask questions of Senator Toomey as well.

To request call-in information from PHCA, click here.

New Guidance Released re: Risk Assessment and Work Restrictions
Today, the Department of Health released new guidance to simplify the determination of risk exposures to COVID-19 that warrant work restrictions.

If you have any questions, please contact Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher.

Upcoming PHCA Webinar on Focused Infection Control Surveys
In light of yesterday’s announcement by CMS that it will increase fines as it relates to infection control measures, PHCA will be hosting a webinar to provide the most up-to-date information about what this enhanced enforcement policy means for nursing homes, and the strategies you can employ to mitigate potentially crippling new enforcement remedies.

Webinar information is below:

CMS Mandates On-Site Focused Infection Control Surveys: Implications and Strategies
Friday, June 5, 2020 – 11 a.m. to noon
This webinar is for nursing home administrators, directors of nursing, infection preventionists, social workers, environmental services, dietary and the entire nursing home interdisciplinary team. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

Monday, June 1, 2020 – 7:41 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 356 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 155 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 72,282.

During today’s DOH press conference, Secretary Levine encouraged long-term care providers in need of additional support to contact the Department of Health as quickly as possible to ensure access to all available resources.

If you need additional support related to DOH issues, or you just need to ask for help, please reach out to Chris Fisher or Gail Weidman at PHCA so we can connect you with the appropriate Health contact.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Please Take A Minute to Say ‘Thank You’!
This morning, you received an email from PHCA, regarding our ‘thank you’ campaign for legislators across the state. Our Representatives and Senators stepped up and directed nearly $300 million in critical emergency funding to support nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities.

We know your time is extremely limited, so we made this as simple as possible. If you haven’t already, please take a minute and say ‘thank you‘ to your legislators and Governor Wolf for their help.

CMS Announces Tougher Penalties, Enforcement for Infection Control Deficiencies
This evening, CMS announced it will increase fines for providers who consistently perform poorly in infection control measures, and they will begin imposing enforcement actions on lower level deficiencies “to ensure they are addressed with increased gravity.”

CMS said it will toughen penalties based on early COVID-19 data trends, as well as findings of the agency’s targeted infection control inspections.

As soon as we have more information, we will share it with you.

DOH Releases New Guidance Impacting Survey123 Tool
Over the weekend, the Department of Health released new guidance – PAHAN-509 – which provides updated guidance for testing in long-term care settings.

A few important things to note:

SNF providers: Facilities are now being asked to report the total number of cases going back to March 6, not January 1. In addition, the Department will also be adding a second question to the Survey123 tool to collect the number of new cases in the past week.

The Department is having issues updating Survey123 questions to align with guidance included in the FAQ document. The survey questions may not align with this FAQ document; however, the Department is continuing to troubleshoot these issues.

 

 

Friday, May 29, 2020 – 6:12 p.m.

Tonight, we have a very important update for you.

After weeks of diligent advocacy, aggressive messaging and a refusal to back down, we can tell you that help is officially on the way.

Earlier this afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2510, the COVID-19 Relief legislation, into law.

This legislation includes $245 million in emergency funding for Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, as well as $50 million for our AL/PC communities.

The Fiscal Code bill was also signed into law, which includes a $16 million Medicaid Day One Incentive (MDOI) payment for our high Medicaid nursing facilities.

There will be more details about how this funding will be distributed to providers in the days and weeks to come, but we wanted to share this news with you as soon as possible.

There’s really only one thing to say: thank you.

Thank you for all your hard work throughout this epidemic.

We could not be proud to represent the most dedicated staff and provider community in Pennsylvania.

This is a very proud day for PHCA, and this is a fantastic achievement for our membership.

 

 

Thursday, May 27, 2020 – 7:19 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 625 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease in 155 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 70,042.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Important News! Funding for Long-Term Care Heads to Governor Wolf for Approval
Moments ago, long-term care providers in Pennsylvania were officially honored and recognized by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Thanks to leadership in the House and Senate, we are one step closer to the critical emergency funding you so desperately need.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly – in a united, bipartisan effort – has approved nearly $300 million to directly support nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities.

The funding is contained in House Bill 2510, and that bill now heads to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk. The Governor can sign it into law, veto it or take no action for 10 days (when it will become law without his signature). We have urged Governor Wolf to sign this bill as soon as possible to get you the funding you need.

Today’s action by the General Assembly sent a clear message of support to PHCA members across the state.

We could not be more proud to report this news to you, and we’ll keep you updated on the Governor’s action.

Clarification on New Reporting Requirements for AL/PC
We know there have been questions regarding the new reporting process for assisted living residences and personal care homes.

This morning, we received clarification on the final reporting guidance issued yesterday from the Director of BHSL:

  • If the community has no COVID-19 positive cases in the community, no reporting is required.
  • If the community has no COVID-19 positive cases and is testing residents and/or staff, no reporting is required unless a test comes back positive.
  • If the community has at least one COVID-19 positive case, the community is required to report all residents and/or staff tested in the community and the results of the test.
  • The report, if possible, should be sent encrypted, as it includes resident and staff identifying information. If this is not possible, the report can be sent via fax.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on the PHCA team.

 

 

Wednesday, May 26, 2020 – 7:30 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 780 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 329 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 69,417.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PA Legislature Expected to Take Action on Long-Term Care Funding & State Budget
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, PHCA members have advocated for more support and state dollars from Governor Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly.

We’ve told you before: the state and your elected officials have heard you, loud and clear.

As it stands now, nursing homes are set to receive $245 million in emergency funding, and AL/PC providers will receive $50 million from the federal CARES Act.

This funding is currently being considered in the state Senate, and we expect to see movement and final approval this week.

We could not be more proud to report this news to you, and we’ll keep you updated.

Reminder: New Reporting Requirements for AL/PC Go Into Effect Tonight
For our AL/PC members: we have been working with DHS to obtain additional details regarding the new reporting requirement that was issued last Friday, May 22.

Effective tonight at midnight, all personal care homes and assisted living residences will be required to submit information regarding all residents and staff who test positive for COVID-19, including resident deaths.

Late last night, DHS issued final reporting requirement guidance and a facility COVID-19 tracker (Excel document) to be used for reporting purposes. This tracker should be completed upon the first notification of a positive COVID-19 case and submitted as new cases are identified.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Kevin Cysyk on the PHCA team.

CMS Announces New Webinar for Nursing Home Providers
CMS will be hosting a new webinar, Establishing an Infection Prevention Program and Conducting Ongoing Infection Surveillance in the Nursing Home, tomorrow at 4 pm. This webinar will help participants to identify the basic components of an infection prevention program in the nursing home setting; describe the best-practice strategies needed to establish a program; and understand the key elements necessary for ongoing infection prevention surveillance.

Advanced registration is required. To register, click here.

Once you register, you will receive an email with a unique web link to join the webinar.

 

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – 7:12 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed only 451 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 22 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 68,637.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

DHS Offers Expedited Direct Care Staff Training Program for AL/PC Providers
The Department of Human Services is offering a new expedited direct care staff orientation training program to help train new staff quickly in the event a facility experiences a staffing shortage. This training is being offered by Temple University Harrisburg and includes all required trainings at-hire (except those that must be provided at the facility).

To access the training program, go to TUHLearn.com and select Direct Care Staff Training for Personal Care Home and Assisted Living Residences. The program is free to participants, will take approximately 4 hours to complete, and includes Knowledge Checks throughout the modules.

Lancaster County Offering COVID-19 Support to Long-Term Care Providers
Lancaster County officials are working with nursing homes to provide additional support and resources including disinfecting services, expanded testing capabilities and infection control training to mitigate COVID-19.

Nursing facilities and personal care homes in Lancaster County in need of disinfecting services can submit a request here.

The county has also approved agreements with two lab providers to offer high-volume COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic residents and staff. These providers are prepared to visit all nursing homes in Lancaster County to collect specimens. Test results will be provided within 72 hours. In order to be tested, residents and front line staff will need to authorize the release of test results to third parties for tracing purposes. All specimens will be collected with nasopharyngeal swabs. For more information about this testing program, click here. To request testing support, click here.

In addition, nursing facilities interested in onsite reviews, infection prevention protocol and PPE training can request these services here.

All costs associated with these services will be covered by Lancaster County using COVID-19 funds.

PHCA COVID-Related Webinars Available
Our next PHCA webinar is:

Truth or Fiction: COVID-19 Reporting in Pennsylvania
Tomorrow, May 27 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
This webinar will examine state and federal requirements for reporting COVID-19 data to federal, state, and local agencies; strategies for communicating with residents, families, and staff; and review best practices for documentation.

This webinar is for nursing facilities, nursing facility administrators, directors of nursing, social workers and business office managers. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

 

Friday, May 22, 2020 – 6:09 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 866 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 114 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 66,258.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

During this afternoon’s press conference, Gov. Tom Wolf announced eight additional counties will move to yellow and 17 counties will move to green, beginning Friday, May 29. The counties moving to yellow on May 29 are Dauphin, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lebanon, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, and Schuylkill.

The 17 counties moving to green are Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango and Warren.

A few important updates:

SNF Member Alert: Survey123 Reporting Requirement
Earlier today, we sent out a member alert to all nursing home administrators regarding the Department of Health Survey123 reporting requirement.

This morning, the Department confirmed it will be using that tool to publicly report their data, but they need help ensuring every facility completes it on a daily basis.

With this in mind, we encourage you to sign-up (if you haven’t already) and complete the Survey123 tool. Here are several resources that may be helpful:

Please email the RA Account at RA-DHSNFQUESTION@pa.gov, with any enrollment, submission, or data discrepancies.

New Reporting Requirements Released for AL/PC
This morning, the Department of Health issued an order related to DHS facility reporting. The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, May 28. 

According to the order:

  • All licensed Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Facilities must begin reporting the data elements established by the Department of Human Services in consultation with the Department of Health.
  • Reports will be made on a schedule and in a manner established by the Department of Human Services in consultation with the Department of Health.
  • The Department of Human Services will report the data collected from all Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Facilities to the Department of Health in a format acceptable to the Department of Health.

Based on our discussions with Jeanne Parisi, BHSL’s director, the reporting tool will be an Excel spreadsheet that must be completed and submitted to the RA headquarters account. AL/PC providers will be required to send updates as new cases are identified.

We will share the specific details on the reporting tool as soon as they are available.

AHCA/NCAL Launches Professional Liability Benchmark Survey
AHCA/NCAL – our national organization – is working with Marsh & McLennan to conduct a long-term care professional liability report for our sector. This study is a critical component in various insurance industry initiatives and supports multiple state tort reform efforts.

This year’s analysis is critical to establish a pre-COVID-19 baseline, and we strongly encourage participation (the completion date is June 1). We ask this, knowing full well you are inundated with surveys, reporting and other required mandates from the government.

Review this resource for more information and consider utilizing this template to make the data collection as easy as possible. This information should be provided separately for assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities.

If you have any questions, please contact Zane Barrick.

PHCA COVID-Related Webinars Available
Our next PHCA webinar is:

Truth or Fiction: COVID-19 Reporting in Pennsylvania
Wednesday, May 27 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
This webinar will examine state and federal requirements for reporting COVID-19 data to federal, state, and local agencies; strategies for communicating with residents, families, and staff; and review best practices for documentation.

This webinar is for nursing facilities, assisted living residences, and personal care homes. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

Thursday, May 21, 2020 – 6:30 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 980 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 234 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 65,392.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Response to DOH Public Reporting Failures
As we first reported on Tuesday, the initial data compiled and released by the Department of Health to the general public included inaccuracies, inconsistencies and incorrect information. We’ve heard from dozens of members – including nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities – regarding the misleading data.

And as we reported yesterday, our call with DOH and the Governor’s Office gave us little to no confidence as to how they were compiling the data themselves.

So last night and throughout today, we spoke out in several interviews with newspaper, radio and television outlets across the state and made our displeasure well-known. We have demanded DOH and the Governor’s Office correct the data as soon as possible, and we continue to review our options to rectify this unfortunate situation.

As a reminder, we’ve created these talking points to help you with any questions you receive.

Please know: we will continue to support you in any way we can.

Changing the Perception of Long-Term Care
As situations arise throughout Pennsylvania, such as Tuesday’s reporting error, we promise to communicate the challenges you are facing every day in your facilities. The critical support you need on the front lines – emergency funding, testing, personal protective equipment – is finally being addressed by reporters and media outlets across the state. Frankly, these issues are too important to ignore. And your elected officials are hearing this as well.

Every day this week, we’ve participated in critical interviews. We’re working to get your message out, and to ensure your voice is heard.

Here is a quick collection of stories we have contributed to over the last several weeks. Special thanks to a few PHCA members who are featured as well:

REMINDER: Testing Survey
Earlier this week, a new testing survey was sent to every nursing home asking for a response no later than Monday, May 25. The goal of the survey is to help the state understand how many nursing facilities have already implemented or are pursuing testing for residents and staff.

Today, AL/PC providers should’ve received a similar survey, issued by the Department of Human Services, which is due Tuesday, May 26. That link can be found here.

The goal of these surveys is to outline the needs for expanded testing capabilities.

If you have questions about the survey, please contact pema_gis@pa.gov. If you have questions about testing, please email DH-COVIDtesting@pa.gov.

 

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – 8:43 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 746 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 136 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 64,412.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Interestingly, the DOH did not hold a media briefing today, citing “an issue with the statewide surveillance data system.”

A very important update:

DOH Public Reporting
Since the first batch of long-term care data was publicly reported by DOH yesterday afternoon, we’ve heard from dozens of members – including nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities – regarding the significant inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the numbers. In some instances, the number of resident cases exceeded the number of residents in a facility.

We demanded a call with DOH and the Governor’s office, and that call was held this afternoon. We asked a few important questions:

  • Where did this data come from?
  • When will it be corrected?
  • Until it’s corrected, will it be taken down from public view?

The data was pulled from the ‘surveillance system’ which incorporates a great deal of reporting databases, and the Department is working to correct it as soon as they possibly can. But there is no plan to retract the incorrect data (as of now).

The new reporting system, Survey123, is the system they’d like to use, but only 500 of the 695 nursing homes have reported thus far. Additionally, AL/PC does not report to that system (yet).

The Department will be sending us a list of those nursing homes that have not submitted data to Survey123, and we’ll be reaching out to you directly. We have a call scheduled with DHS tomorrow to hear how this will affect our AL/PC members.

We understand the concern, panic and angst that this data has generated among your facility staff, residents and the family members and loved ones of those residents.

We have made our displeasure well-known to members of the media already, and we are currently reviewing our options to rectify this unfortunate situation.

In the meantime, we would encourage you to be transparent with the families and loved ones of your residents. Explain the information released, and answer any questions they may have.

If you are having difficulties with the Survey123 process, please reach out to PHCA, or email: RA-DHSNFQUESTION@pa.gov.

 

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 – 7:55 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 610 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 212 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 63,666.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few very important updates:

DOH Launches Public Reporting of COVID Info in Long-Term Care Facilities
Earlier today, the Department of Health released data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in specific facilities across the state. The data is compiled on an Excel spreadsheet and includes three categories: Number Of Resident Cases, Number Of Employee Cases, and Number Of Deaths. If a facility has less than five of any of those data points, the information is redacted.

As we’ve examined today’s report, it is clear there are significant inaccuracies and inconsistencies. In some instances, the numbers are blatantly incorrect.

Since the data was reported, we’ve spoken with DOH leadership, and a call will be scheduled tomorrow. We have officially asked that the data be removed from the DOH website until it is corrected.

We apologize for the confusion this will likely cause your staff, as well as the family members of your residents.

These numbers may also result in inquiries from the media. We’ve created these talking points to help you with any questions you receive.

New DOH Testing Survey
Yesterday, the Department of Health released another new testing survey to all nursing homes asking for a response no later than Monday, May 25. The goal of the survey is to help the Department understand how many nursing facilities have already implemented or are pursuing testing for residents and staff. We believe the goal of the survey is to outline the needs for expanded testing capabilities.

If you have questions about the survey, please contact pema_gis@pa.gov. If you have questions about testing, please email DH-COVIDtesting@pa.gov.

Guidance Available for Employees Needing FBI Background Checks
DHS today released guidance for employees needing FBI criminal history background checks as a condition of employment while counties are operating under stay-at-home orders.

Individuals who are required to obtain an FBI background check are given additional time to meet this requirement if they are unable to complete their fingerprinting scan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension for new hires to obtain the FBI background check lasts until 60 days following the expiration of the disaster emergency declaration issued by Governor Wolf, or December 31, 2020, whichever is sooner.

DHS has issued guidance so providers and potential employees understand what flexibility is available and how they can still receive fingerprinting services to obtain background checks now. FAQs are available here.

A map of all open IdentoGO locations is available here, and this map is updated as new offices begin to reopen. Anyone seeking fingerprinting services should call IDEMIA’s customer service at 844-321-2101 to ensure the location is still operating, schedule an appointment, and discuss necessary safety precautions.

CHC Webinar Announced for Thursday
The next Community HealthChoices (CHC) Third Thursday webinar will be held this Thursday, May 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) Deputy Secretary, Kevin Hancock, will be providing updates on COVID-19.

To register, click here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing additional details necessary to join the webinar.

 

 

Monday, May 18, 2020 – 7:40 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 822 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 199 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 63,056.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Updates on DOH Universal & Recurring Testing Guidance
We continue to seek additional guidance and information related to the Department of Health’s universal testing directive released last Tuesday. DOH is now working on a formal plan to support the implementation of universal testing, and we may see updated language in the PA HAN 508 that was also issued last week.

Based on today’s calls with the Department, we believe the plan has already begun to take shape in northeast and southeast PA.

Note to nursing home providers: you may be contacted by representatives of PEMA, the DOH, the Hospital Association (HAP) or other entities to determine if your facility would like to be included in a testing ‘pilot program’. This program will include a site visit, walkthrough, review of infection control procedures and protocols, a review of testing protocols, and a final testing phase.

A few PHCA members have already been contacted, and have entered into the pilot program.

We should be receiving additional information on this program. Please contact Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team if you have any questions.

We will update you as soon as the final plan and/or guidance is released.

New Nursing Home Reporting System Clarification
On Friday evening, we communicated that DOH would be requiring additional reporting for nursing home providers, similar to the information you already report to the CDC.

Now that the system is up and running, we’re receiving clarification on which information DOH needs. While this is a similar report to the NHSN reporting system, they are not the same.

This new system, Survey123, must be updated daily, while the NHSN system requires a weekly update.

We’re now being told that cumulative data should revert back to the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak (January 1, 2020).

If you have questions, please reach out to us at PHCA, or contact: ra-dhSNFquestion@pa.gov.

We will continue to advocate for a single reporting system.

CMS Issues Guidance to States on Reopening Nursing Homes: Universal Testing Needed to Lift Visitation Ban

This afternoon, CMS released guidelines on reopening nursing homes, with parameters around testing requirements and visitation.

CMS announced that states have flexibility in deciding how the criteria in the guidelines should be implemented, given how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting different communities.

This information is quickly developing. We will share additional information with you as we receive it.

Respirator Decontamination Program Available to All Long-Term Care Providers
In early May, Gov. Wolf announced a program to provide free N95 respirator decontamination for long-term care providers experiencing a shortage of respirators due to limited availability of PPE. You should have received information about this program from PEMA, the DOH and HAP.

PEMA is collaborating with Battelle Memorial Institute to deploy a decontamination unit in southeast Pennsylvania that has the capacity to sterilize up to 80,000 N95 respirators per day.

This service is available free of charge for skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities and personal care homes. The only cost to providers is shipping costs to and from the decontamination site.

For more information about the program, click here.

 

Friday, May 15, 2020 – 8:14 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 986 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 48 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 60,622.

County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Additionally, Governor Tom Wolf announced 12 more counties will move to the ‘yellow phase’ of reopening on Friday, May 22. Those counties are: Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne, and York.

A few important updates:

A NEW Reporting Requirement from DOH: Due TOMORROW
We apologize for sending today’s update so late, but we have been fighting for clarification on the latest reporting requirement issued by the Department of Health. As you’re likely aware, this new order requires every nursing home to report COVID-specific information to the Department for their public reporting purposes.

The first report is due by 11:59 p.m. tomorrow (5/16).

Since the announcement was made earlier today, we had worked to obtain guidance on this order and delay its implementation.

However, less than 45 minutes ago, administrators should have received an email from the Department of Health, indicating the seriousness of this order as a ‘public health imperative’. There will be no delay in implementation – the information is due by midnight tomorrow.

Below, please find two documents that were distributed late this afternoon regarding this new reporting process:

If you are having difficulties compiling this data, or you’re experiencing technical difficulties, please email: RA-DHSNFQUESTION@pa.gov.

This new, duplicative requirement is extremely disappointing. Once again, the Department of Health has prioritized paperwork over patients.

PHCA will be responding accordingly.

Application Submission for Communicative Technology Now Open
We know many facilities are using iPads, tablets, webcams, etc. to keep residents in communication with their loved ones. Today, Pennsylvania received approval to use funds from Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) for technology that allows residents to engage in virtual social opportunities and telehealth visits.

If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, please:

  • Review the Frequently Asked Questions for State Medicaid Agencies document.
  • Complete the electronic template application developed by CMS. The request must be for communicative technology, such as tablets and accessories including headphones and tablet protectors, for use by nursing homes, other healthcare providers, and state agencies.
  • Complete the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania General Invoice. Only those sections highlighted in Yellow need to be completed by the Nursing Facility. Please make sure that the description and costs of the communicative technology on the invoice and the CMS application match.

To submit the required forms by May 31 or for questions related to this program, email RA-PWCMPGRANTS@pa.gov.

CMS Issues Nursing Home ‘Best Practices’ Toolkit to Combat COVID-19
CMS has released a new toolkit intended to serve as a catalog of resources for nursing homes.

The goal of the toolkit is to outline best practices for a variety of subjects, ranging from infection control to workforce and staffing.

 

 

Thursday, May 14, 2020 – 8:24 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 938 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 231 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 59,636.

A few important updates:

‘Universal’ Testing
From the moment our Secretary of Health announced an initiative for universal testing for long-term care residents and staff (which took place only two days ago), we’ve attempted to gather information and guidance for you and your facilities.

How will facilities obtain testing kits? When should testing begin? How often should you test? What happens if the number of positive tests climbs exponentially?

We’ve asked these questions, and we continue to gather additional information about the testing plan, its implementation, and a potential webinar hosted by the Department of Health that will help to clarify guidance and move us forward.

Unfortunately, it appears as if there are very few specifics available. In fact, it’s difficult to tell if this is a mandate or a recommendation – or neither.

Please continue to reach out to us with questions, and we’ll get you information as quickly as possible. We hope to have clarification soon.

CMS Announces COVID-19 Data on Nursing Home Compare
Earlier today, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that newly required COVID-19 data compiled by the federal government will appear on Nursing Home Compare, with the first public information expected to be released by the end of this month.

As a reminder, the first round of data must be uploaded to the NHSN module by this Sunday, May 17.

DOH Releases Updated Guidance for Nursing Homes
Earlier today, the Department of Health released new interim guidance for nursing facilities. This guidance replaces the initial guidance issued on March 18 and provides greater detail regarding personnel allowed to access the facility amid visitor restrictions; health care personnel who become ill during their shift; admissions and readmissions for residents exposed to COVID-19; and testing for COVID-19 upon discharge from a hospital.

It also includes a new section around cohorting residents and Knowledge Center reporting.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team.

PHCA COVID-Related Webinars Available
We understand how busy you are as you continue to respond to COVID-19, but we also know you and your staff are still in need of CEU credits. As such, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members. Our next webinar is:

COVID-19, the Courts, and Medicaid Eligibility: Navigating and Overcoming the Challenges
Thursday, May 21 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Skilled nursing administrators, business office managers, and business office staff are encouraged to register. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.
To register, click here.

 

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 – 7:33 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 707 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 130 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 58,698.

The state is reporting an increase of 135 new deaths today, bringing the statewide total to 3,943 deaths in Pennsylvania. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

AG Josh Shapiro Announces Criminal Investigations into Nursing Homes
Yesterday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced his office has opened criminal investigations into several Pennsylvania nursing homes, and he would investigate any nursing home engaging in criminal neglect of patients and residents.

The attorney general has shared no specific area of investigation with us, but the announcement seems to indicate the examination of our long-term care facilities is connected to negligent care provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we have communicated publicly, this is a time when we need the state to partner with you on essential initiatives. We hope to work with the attorney general, his staff, and all levels of state government in partnership, rather than opposition, moving forward.

We’ll let you know when we learn more.

Wellness Wednesday Programming and Resources Available
Aegis, a PHCA business partner, has launched Wellness Wednesday, a new program for your staff to practice self-care during this stressful time. Each activity is designed to take about 10 minutes or less, and will walk you through an activity to support overall wellness.

Today’s Wellness Wednesday activity is Breathing Techniques for Beginners.

New PHCA Webinars: Stress Management and COVID-19
We understand how busy you are as you continue to respond to COVID-19, but we also know you and your staff are still in need of CEU credits. As such, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members.

Our upcoming webinars include:

Embrace the Glorious Mess That is You
Thursday, May 14 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
All are encouraged to register and are eligible to receive one CEU credit.
To register, click here.

COVID-19, the Courts, and Medicaid Eligibility: Navigating and Overcoming the Challenges
Thursday, May 21 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Skilled nursing administrators, business office managers, and business office staff are encouraged to register. Attendees are eligible to receive one CEU credit.
To register, click here.

 

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 – 8:51 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 837 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 294 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 57,991.

The state is reporting an increase of 75 new deaths today, bringing the total to 3,806 deaths in Pennsylvania. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

Funding News for ALL Long-Term Care Providers
Earlier today, the state Senate approved Senate Bill 1122, which originally contained $200 million in emergency funding for nursing homes.

However, I am pleased to report the bill was amended today to include additional monies for nursing homes, as well as our assisted living and personal care membership.

As it stands now, nursing homes are set to receive $245 million, and AL/PC providers will receive $50 million in state funds taken from the federal CARES Act.

Throughout the last three weeks, we have put a great deal of pressure on the Governor, his administration, and members of the General Assembly. This is a big result of that campaign.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where we’ll continue to advocate for you.

We could not be more proud to report this news to you, and we’ll keep you updated.

DOH Releases Guidance on Universal Testing Strategy for LTC Residents, Staff
Earlier today, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine released new testing guidance for universal testing of long-term care residents and staff. This new guidance was released after weeks of urging and advocacy.

While we’re encouraged by the Department of Health’s announcement, we recognize there are a number of questions regarding the implementation and timing of this testing strategy. It’s also unclear if this guidance includes residents and staff in assisted living communities and personal care homes.

In the absence of additional information from the Department, we encourage you to contact DOH to seek information on preferred vendors, testing protocols, availability of tests and reimbursement for testing. You should also ask for more information related to documentation requirements should a resident – or staff member – refuse to be tested. Document, document, document all of your communications with the state health department and the steps you take as a result.

We hope to have true guidance soon, and we’ll update you as soon as we know more.

 

 

Monday, May 11, 2020 – 5:22 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 543 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 752 cases as compared to yesterday. This significant decrease in positive cases is likely a result of decreased reporting by independent labs over the weekend. This brings the statewide total to 57,154.

The state is reporting an increase of 200 new deaths today, bringing the total to 3,616 deaths in Pennsylvania. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

This morning, Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference in which he urged counties and businesses to follow the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, or there would be consequences (withholding of federal funding, loss of business licenses, etc.).

In addition, Governor Wolf announced 13 additional counties will move to the ‘yellow’ phase of reopening this Friday. Those counties are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

A few important updates:

White House Recommends States Test All Nursing Home Residents & Staff
During a conference call today with state governors, Vice President Mike Pence strongly encouraged all states to focus their efforts on testing nursing home residents and direct care workers. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, M.D., added that the federal government will help if necessary, but the administration’s position is that states must take the lead.

During this afternoon’s press conference, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine announced the department was working on plans to prioritize testing for nursing home residents and staff and would be releasing that plan later this week.

We’ll update you as soon as we know more.

NHSN COVID-19 Reporting: Accurately Reporting Staffing and PPE Shortages
NHSN COVID-19 mandated reporting for nursing homes has officially begun. AHCA recommends accurately reporting the staffing and PPE situation at nursing homes based on normal standards and guidance for PPE and staffing, not conservation guidance. Federal and state governments will use this data to hold nursing homes accountable for care and services provided and to identify who needs additional resources.

For Staffing, NHSN asks “Does your organization have a shortage of staff and/or personnel?” Answer YES if any of the following are occurring during the time period of reporting:

  • Staffing less than your facility needs or internal policies for staffing ratios prior to COVID or based on increased needs since COVID
  • Employing contingency or crisis strategies for staffing shortage
  • Using more agency staff than you used before the pandemic
  • Using volunteers for staffing needs more than what you may have used prior to the pandemic
  • Using any temporary positions per waiver allowances (such as temporary nurse aide or temporary feeding assistant)

For PPE, NHSN asks “Do you have enough for one week?” each for N95 masks, surgical masks, eye protection, gowns, gloves, alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Answer NO if any of the following are occurring during the time period of reporting:

  • Employing any conservation strategies for PPE use; if you are not able to use PPE per conventional transmission-based precautions in place before the pandemic you should answer NO.
  • Using alternative PPE such as cloth masks or other types of face coverings, clothing or other types of coverings instead of surgical gowns, or glasses for eye protection
  • Reusing any single-use supply item such as gown or masks
  • If additional residents in the next week will need to be placed on precautions, it will compromise your PPE supply
  • If additional staff in the next week will need to use PPE when returning to work, it will compromise your PPE supply
  • If visitors or contractors in the next week need to visit, it will compromise your PPE supply

New PHCA Webinars: COVID-19 Testing and Stress Management
We understand how busy you are, and we also realize you and your staff are still in need of CEU credits. As such, all COVID-related webinars and associated credits will be free of charge for members and non-members.

Our upcoming webinars this week include:

COVID-19 Testing – Clarifying the Options for Post-Acute Care
Wednesday, May 13 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
To register, click here.

Embrace the Glorious Mess That is You
Thursday, May 14 – 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
To register, click here.

 

 

Friday, May 8, 2020 – 6:04 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,323 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 253 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 54,238.

The state is reporting an increase of 200 new deaths today, bringing the statewide total to 3,616 deaths in Pennsylvania. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Testifies Before House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee
Earlier today, we testified again before Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives’ Aging and Older Services Committee.

Today’s testimony was similar to the sentiment we shared yesterday before the Senate Aging and Youth and Health and Human Services Committees.

We are proud to share your message with legislators, and we’ll continue to advocate for your needs as long as it takes.

Additional Resources Related to NHSN and Family Reporting Now Available
Below, you’ll find two documents that may be helpful for nursing home operators as we work toward compliance with the new CMS Interim Final Rule related to notification and reporting of COVID-19 cases:

Please note: If your nursing home has any resident and/or staff cases as of today (Friday, May 8) as described by CMS as ‘requiring notification’, the first notification is required to occur by tomorrow (Saturday, May 9) at 5 p.m. The notification is required if your nursing home had a single new COVID-19 case among residents or staff or three or more residents or staff who have new-onset respiratory symptoms within a 72- hour period.

NHSN Enrollment Delays and Tips
It is taking longer than anticipated for nursing homes to enroll in the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) due to high demand from the new CMS reporting requirements.

NHSN is providing two live Zoom sessions to address enrollment specific questions. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting:

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 – 1:00 PM
Register Here

Thursday, May 14, 2020 – 2:00 PM
Register Here

BHSL Provides New Resources on Abuse Training and Clarification Around Visitation Restrictions
Linked here are two new resources related to online training and clarification around visitation restrictions:

If you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher.

PHCA Webinar: COVID-19 Testing – Clarifying the Options for Post-Acute Care
We want to continue to support your educational needs by providing webinar offerings related to the #COVID19 challenges you are facing.

Join us this Wednesday, May 13th for a webinar hosted by Medline: COVID-19 Testing – Clarifying the Options for Post-Acute Care. Webinar attendees will receive one CEU credit.

To register, click here.

 

Thursday, May 7, 2020 – 6:33 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,070 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 182 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 52,915.

The state is reporting an increase of 310 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 3,416. This increase in reported deaths is a result of the ongoing reconciliation of data over the past several weeks. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

A few important updates:

PHCA Testifies Before Pennsylvania Senate on COVID-19
This morning, I was proud to testify before a joint committee hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Aging and Youth and Health and Human Services Committees.

You can watch my testimony here.

The initiatives we shared with members of the state Senate include many of the points we continue to advocate for in PHCA’s Long-Term Care Plan for Pennsylvania, which outlines the critical need for emergency funding, priority testing, priority personal protective equipment, medical liability protections and collaboration with state government.

And our pleas for help are being answered. Today, we’ve received a number of calls from legislators who recognize the challenges you’re facing and want to help you and your residents. They’re asking what they can do, and what you need to be successful.

Tomorrow, we will be testifying before the House of Representatives and their Aging & Older Adult Services Committee.

CDC Releases New Resources Related to Reporting Module
During today’s provider committee call, our staff walked through resources from the CDC related to new reporting required for the NHSN COVID-19 module. This resource has been added to our online portal for your review and includes instructions for each of the four reporting modules: Resident Impact and Facility Capacity, Supplies and PPE, Staffing and Personnel Impact and Ventilator Capacity and Supply.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team.

DOH Releases FAQ for Residents, Families and Staff
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has issued these frequently asked questions to address the concerns that families have raised with facilities throughout the last few weeks. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to PHCA staff.

DCED Approves Workforce Development Training Programs
Yesterday, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) approved certain life-sustaining business workforce development training programs to resume, beginning tomorrow. This includes nurse aide and direct care training programs.

You can review the DCED FAQ resource regarding the guidance related to this approval here.

 

 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020 – 7:11 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 888 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 23 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 51,845.

DOH is also reporting an increase of 94 new deaths, bringing the statewide total to 3,106 in Pennsylvania. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here.

Before we dive into today’s updates, we want to take a moment to say thank you to all our nurses. National Nurses Week began today, and we’d like to recognize all of the tremendous work our nurses in long-term care have done, especially during the response to COVID-19.

Over the next several days, we’ll be recognizing a number of nurses from our member facilities who have gone to extraordinary lengths to support their fellow staff and care for their residents.

If you’d like to nominate a nurse to be featured during this week’s #NursesWeek2020 social media content, please email Shayna Varner, our Director of Communications, at svarner@phca.org. All submissions are welcome!

A few important updates:

Governor Wolf Issues Executive Order to Provide Liability Protections to Health Care Practitioners Only
This afternoon, Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order granting civil immunity to individual health care practitioners.

Unfortunately, the order does not offer protections to health care providers and organizations, including nursing homes, assisted living communities, personal care homes and hospitals.

While today’s order recognizes the extraordinary efforts of individual caregivers and health care practitioners on the front lines, it simply failed to extend the same protections to providers, which still leaves members vulnerable to lawsuits.

Moving forward, we will continue our work with members of the General Assembly to ensure our member organizations receive the same protections already granted to providers in 13 other states across the country.

CDC Confirms NHSN COVID-19 Retrospective Reporting is Optional
There has been some confusion as to whether retrospective reporting in the NHSN COVID-19 module is required or not. AHCA has confirmed with the CDC that it is optional to submit data back to January 1, 2020. CMS has issued this memo to help answer questions that have been raised about the requirement, as well as the new resident, representative, and family notification requirement.

This memo contains a significant amount of information that we strongly encourage you to review.

As a reminder, the new rule requires reporting starting last Friday, May 1st, which must be done weekly. Friday, May 8th will mark the end of the first reporting period.

AHCA continues to advocate for CMS to allow a grace period from enforcement due to the length of time necessary for nursing homes to gain access to NHSN, as well as time needed to establish systems for reporting.

The CDC is offering several live Q&A sessions for nursing homes between May 6-14. Details can be found under the training section of the CDC NHSN website.

DHHS Clarifies CARES Act Provider Relief Fund Questions
Over the past several weeks, AHCA/NCAL has submitted an array of questions on the Provider Relief Fund.

Recently, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) staff has indicated they do not intend to recover Provider Relief Fund allocations unless:

  • DHHS identifies an overpayment associated with revenue calculations which were incorrectly based upon improper or incorrect information on the cost reports. DHHS also noted the Department is collecting tax filing information to be uploaded to verify the revenue. AHCA/NCAL recognizes the challenges associated with using tax filing information and is conveying those concerns to the Department; and
  • DHHS will pursue providers who cannot substantiate the costs/loss of revenue. AHCA/NCAL has developed a COVID-19 Loss/Cost Calculator (member login required).

DHHS will be issuing an FAQ to clarify the Tranche 1 and 2 payment concerns. We’ll be sure to provide that to you as soon as it is made available.

Governor Wolf Announces Program to Provide Free N95 Respirator Decontamination Units
Today, Governor Wolf announced a program to provide free N95 respirator decontamination to healthcare facilities, first responders, and other eligible organizations that may be experiencing a shortage of respirators due to limited availability through normal procurement channels.

The service is available free of charge for use by eligible organizations, including skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities/personal care homes. The only cost to an eligible organization is for shipping to and from the site.

Information about the service is being distributed to potentially eligible organizations through the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), and other state agencies.

 

 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – 6:00 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 865 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 40 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 50,957.

The department also confirmed there have been 3,012 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

In nursing homes and AL/PC communities, there are 9,625 resident cases, as well as 1,284 cases among employees. That’s a total of 10,909 cases at 495 distinct facilities.

A few important updates:

Update on NHSN Reporting Registration
It has been brought to our attention that there may be a 24-48 hour lag time between initiating registration to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) COVID-19 reporting module and completion of the registration process due to the number of facilities trying to gain access to the portal.

While waiting for the registration process to complete, you should download the four data collection pathway forms and accompanying instructions to start collecting the data that you will be uploading to NHSN once the registration process is complete.

It is extremely important to download and refer to the instructions page for each of the four data collection pathways.

The four data collection pathway forms are:

We’ll provide an update on this delay as we know more.

AHCA Releases New, Expanded Infection Preventionist Specialized Training
AHCA has released a new and expanded version of its popular Infection Preventionist Specialized Training that was first launched in 2017. AHCA recommends that each nursing facility train at least two Infection Preventionists through AHCA’s IPCO training program (should one Infection Preventionist leave the facility). The training is also highly recommended for assisted living communities.

Payment and registration are made online at ahcancalED.

New Resources Posted to Department of Health Message Board
The Department of Health has released two new pieces of guidance on the Message Board. These updates include:

  • PAHAN 504 – Interim Guidance on Discontinuing Non-Healthcare Isolation for Persons with COVID-19
  • Testing Survey – The Department of Health is asking all facilities to complete a short survey regarding COVID-19 specimen collection locations and laboratories. The purpose of the survey is to provide DOH with the information they need to better understand the need to increase specimen collection sites, the overall testing capacity, and barriers to testing. The Department is asking that one person from each facility complete the survey no later than Friday, May 8. 

Wellness Wednesday Programming and Resources Available
Aegis, a PHCA business partner, is launching Wellness Wednesday, a new program for your staff to practice self-care during this stressful time. Each activity is designed to take about 10 minutes or less and will walk you through an activity to support overall wellness.

Upcoming sessions include:

 

Monday, May 4, 2020 – 6:21 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 825 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 137 cases as compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 50,092.

The department also confirmed there have been 2,458 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

Over the last week, the Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, has been asked repeatedly about long-term care facilities, as well as her Department’s response to providers throughout this epidemic, during her daily press conferences. The questions have revolved around funding, PPE availability and testing. During today’s press conference, Secretary Levine indicated the Governor’s Office and the Office of General Counsel are discussing civil immunity for health care providers – a key initiative we’ve endorsed since before the epidemic began.

Your advocacy and work has truly brought these issues to the forefront, and we won’t relent until we have answers, as well as real solutions.

A few important updates:

Update on FEMA PPE Supply to Nursing Homes
We now have word that FEMA will coordinate two shipments totaling a 14-day supply of PPE to nursing homes across the nation.

By the beginning of July, each facility will receive two separate packages containing a seven-day supply of eye protection, surgical masks, gowns, and gloves. Each facility will receive an allotment of all four items based on staff size.

The Level 1 medical gowns included in the shipments are intended for use in basic care settings for minimal risk situations. The gowns are durable and can be washed 30 to 50 times.

The first shipments will begin this week and will continue throughout May. Initial shipments will focus on metropolitan-area priority sites, such as New York City, Northern New Jersey, Boston, Chicago and Washington D.C. The second shipment of supplies will start at the beginning of June. We will continue to share more information as it becomes available.

New Resources Posted to Department of Health Message Board
Over the weekend, there were several new resources and updates added to the Department of Health Message Board. These updates include:

We’ve also updated our online portal to include a guidance wrap-up for the week ending Friday, May 1st.

Department of Health Releases Revised Guidance on Distribution of PPE
Earlier this afternoon, the Office of Long-Term Living shared revised guidance on the distribution of PPE from the Department of Health. This new guidance replaces the guidance that was sent via the ListServ email on Wednesday, April 8.

In other PPE-related news, Pennsylvania has entered into a consortium with six other states in a regional purchasing consortium for PPE and medical supplies. The other states are New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The Governor’s Office and DCED will be leading this effort.

 

 

Friday, May 1, 2020 – 8:28 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,208 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 189 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 46,971.

The department also confirmed there have been 2,354 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

During today’s press conference, Governor Tom Wolf announced the ‘reopening’ of 24 counties in the northwest and north-central regions of the state, beginning next Friday, May 8th.

Those counties are: Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.

The counties were deemed ‘ready’ to reopen because of low per-capita COVID case counts, their ability to conduct contact tracing and testing, and appropriate population density to contain community spread.

As regions or counties move into the ‘reopening’ phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease. Other restrictions, such as closures of schools, gyms and hair salons, as well as limitations around large gatherings, will remain in place.

A few important updates:

Changing the Perception of Long-Term Care and COVID-19
Since our PHCA Press Briefing on Monday, we’ve begun to change the narrative surrounding long-term care and COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. The critical support you need on the front lines – emergency funding, testing and personal protective equipment – is finally being addressed by reporters across the state. Frankly, these issues are too important to ignore.

Every day this week, we’ve participated in at least one critical interview. We’re working to get your message out, and to ensure your voice is heard.

This morning, we were on WITF Smart Talk with Scott LaMar – you can listen to our full interview here.

Nominate a Nurse for National Nurses Day!
This Wednesday, May 6th is National Nurses Day, and PHCA would like to express our gratitude to the nurses on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

Throughout the day, we’ll be sharing stories on social media of individual nurses who have stepped up and stood out in the face of this epidemic.

If you’d like to nominate a nurse to be featured, please email Shayna Varner, our Director of Communications, at svarner@phca.org. All submissions are welcome!

CMS Issues Interim Final Rule with New Requirements for COVID-19 Reporting
Last night, CMS issued an interim final rule with comment period, which establishes reporting requirements for providers to report information related to COVID-19 cases among facility residents and staff.

Under this new requirement, nursing facilities must electronically report information regarding COVID-19 in a standardized format, which will rely on the CDC NHSN portal that went live on Wednesday with the new LTCF COVID-19 module.

In addition, providers must continue to comply with state and local reporting requirements as well. We will continue our efforts with state government to create a single reporting mechanism, rather than using duplicative processes.

This new requirement also requires that providers inform residents, their representatives and family members if positive COVID-19 cases occur in facilities.

Department of Health Releases New Resources on Message Board
The Department of Health has released a new resource on their Message Board, which provides information on who should wear PPE, how PPE is being prioritized, what strategy is being used to distribute PPE and who will be receiving PPE.

In addition, the Department has released additional information regarding the Educational Support and Clinical Coaching Program (ESCCP).

If you have any questions, please contact Gail Weidman or Chris Fisher on the PHCA team.

 

 

Thursday, April 30, 2020 – 8:00 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,397 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 295 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 45,763.

The department also confirmed there have been 2,292 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

A few important updates:

President Trump, CMS Announce the Formation of the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes
In a press conference earlier today, President Trump announced a special nursing home task force that will convene in May to assess the response to COVID-19, identify best practices, and provide recommendations on protections for nursing home residents.

The Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes will include industry leaders, doctors, scientists, resident advocates, family members, and others.

Getting Started with NHSN Reporting on COVID-19
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) COVID-19 reporting module for long term care facilities. Centers who were not previously enrolled in NHSN will be required to go through an expedited enrollment process.

Daily reporting to NHSN provides the timeliest data which will be informative and provide situational awareness at both state and national levels. Data should be entered, at a minimum, at least once a week.

Data uploaded to NHSN can be done manually or through embedded import functions using CSV files. The COVID-19 module is divided into 4 separate reporting pathways which include:

  • Resident impact and Facility Capacity
  • Staff and Personnel Impact
  • Supplies and Personal Protective Equipment
  • Ventilator Capacity and Supplies

Centers can choose one person or multiple people within their center to access and upload information to NHSN.

CDC Webinar Training for LTCF COVID-19 Module: New Mandatory Reporting
CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network has announced webinar trainings for the new LTCF COVID-19 Module, which is expected to be a new requirement by CMS.

The training webinars will be recorded and posted to the LTCF COVID-19 Module webpage with a PDF of the slide presentation.

We understand many members had difficulty gaining access to today’s webinar. We are hopeful tomorrow’s webinar login process will run much smoother.

Tomorrow’s Topic: COVID-19 Enrollment Guidance for Long-term Care Facilities
Friday, May 1, 2020 – 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Learn how to join this webinar on the CDC website.

 

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 – 7:30 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,102 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 112 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 44,366.

The department also confirmed there have been 2,195 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

A few important updates:

Critical Emergency Funding for Nursing Homes: BIG News to Share
We are very proud to report that, earlier today, the state Senate Appropriations Committee amended a bill to include $200 million in funding for nursing homes.

Though the bill must still pass the full Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, this was a critical step in securing funding for PHCA providers.

Senators from both sides of the aisle spoke very highly of nursing homes and long-term care providers today. It proves that our advocacy, as well as the work you do every day, is making a difference,.

We will continue to work with members of the General Assembly, as well as the Wolf Administration, to ensure you receive the support you need. We’ll keep you updated as legislative talks progress.

CDC Webinar Training for LTCF COVID-19 Module: New Mandatory Reporting
CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network has announced two upcoming webinar trainings for the new LTCF COVID-19 Module, which is expected to be a new requirement by CMS.

The training webinars will be recorded and posted to the LTCF COVID-19 Module webpage with a PDF of the slide presentation.

First Topic: COVID-19 Module Overview for Long-term Care Facilities  
Thursday, April 30, 2020 – 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Second Topic: COVID-19 Enrollment Guidance for Long-term Care Facilities

Friday, May 1, 2020 – 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Learn how to join these webinars on the CDC website.

New Resources on Nursing Home Surveys
Post & Schell, a trusted PHCA business partner, has developed this resource that pulls together information to support nursing home surveys during COVID-19.

This resource includes information that we hope will be helpful regarding DOH surveys:

  • Preparing for Infection Control Survey
  • Impact on Enforcement Actions
  • Impact on the Five-Star Quality Rating System
  • Posting of Nursing Home Staffing and DOH Minimum Staffing Requirements

The information has previously been distributed in separate emails and announcements – this document pulls the resources and information together in one place.

 

 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – 8:01 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,214 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 329 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 43,264

The department also confirmed there have been 1,716 COVID-19-related deaths statewide.

A few important updates:

Your Voice Is Being Heard in Harrisburg!
Every day, we’re advocating in Harrisburg for critical emergency funding for long-term care. Funding that will help with staffing relief, PPE shortages and critical supplies for the duration of the COVID-19 response.

But we don’t advocate alone – over the last few weeks, you’ve made your voices heard as well. And we’re seeing results.

Late yesterday, we learned state Representative Gary Day, Chairman of the House Aging Committee, along with Reps. Brett Miller, Mark Gillen, Parke Wentling, Eric Nelson, Mike Jones and Frank Ryan sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf, urging immediate emergency funding for long-term care providers.

This legislative support is critical, and it shows the power of your advocacy.

FEMA to Make Shipments of PPE to Nursing Homes in Early May
The White House Coronavirus Task Force announced yesterday that FEMA will be shipping every nursing home in the United States a supply of PPE (surgical masks, gowns, face shields and gloves) in early May and again in early June.

As we learn more about the arrival dates and amounts, we will keep you updated.

New Tool Available to Report Positive COVID-19 Cases to the Department of Health
In an effort to help streamline your reporting processes, PHCA has worked with the Department of Health to create this spreadsheet to report positive COVID-19 cases to your respective field office. This spreadsheet was developed to relieve some of the burden related to reporting individual cases.

Please note: nursing homes must report their first case in ERS and include in the documentation that ‘updates will be made via Excel spreadsheet to supervisor/designated surveyor’. This Excel spreadsheet is to be updated and sent to the field office daily.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Gail Weidman at gweidman@phca.org.

Temporary Nurse Aide Training Program Resources
Since announcing the approval of a temporary nurse aide (TNA) training program, we’ve received a number of questions from providers and potential nurse aides looking for additional information.

We’ve pulled together this resource to answer questions about the program, as well as a DOH-approved staffing tracker. Remember: TNA hours should be included in CNA hours with documentation of TNAs on the second tab of the worksheet.

 

Monday, April 27, 2020 – 7:49 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 885 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 231 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 42,050.

In addition, the department confirmed there have been 1,597 COVID-19-related deaths statewide. More than 60% of those deaths have, unfortunately, occurred in long-term care facilities.

A few important updates:

PHCA Updates the State Legislature on COVID-19
Two weeks ago, our membership sent more than 2,500 letters and emails to Governor Tom Wolf and the state House and Senate, urging them to prioritize emergency funding for long-term care.

And today, we held our first-ever PHCA Legislative Briefing conference call with every member of the general assembly. We spoke to the challenges you’re facing, the opportunities that exist, and the need for state government to work with providers – especially during the COVID-19 epidemic.

More than 120 legislators joined us, and we’ve heard from those legislators throughout the day. They want to help you and your residents. They’re asking what they can do, and what you need to be successful.

To download and listen to a recording of our briefing, click here.

After our Legislative Briefing, we held a Press Briefing for members of the media. We were joined by eighteen reporters from across the state who were able to hear, firsthand, the needs of providers and staff.

And our messaging is already paying dividends. You can read the first article written from our press briefing here.

PHCA Releases Long-Term Care Plan for Pennsylvania
Just over one week ago, Governor Tom Wolf released his ‘Plan for Pennsylvania’, which centered around the relief, recovery and reopening of Pennsylvania.

That plan, however, largely ignored the providers, workers and residents in long-term care. In fact, in the official 12-page plan, long-term care facilities are mentioned exactly twice.

The issues we’ve continued to advocate for – critical emergency funding for providers, prioritizing supplies of personal protective equipment for workers, addressing staffing shortages, protecting residents and granting civil immunity to the long-term care continuum – are simply too important to ignore.

Which is why, today, we released our own PHCA Plan for Pennsylvania that not only prioritizes long-term care providers, frontline workers and residents – it makes them the central focus.

You can take a look at the plan here.

AHCA/NCAL Grant and Loan Management Resource Guide Available
To aid members with managing the wide array of federal grants and loans available, AHCA/NCAL has developed a basic primer  (login required) for organizing oversight and day-to-day management of these emergency resources. The guidance includes federal cost reporting guidelines, as well as recommended financial management approaches for members.

To download the Resource Guide, log into the AHCA/NCAL website and go here.

Updated: Accelerated and Advance Payments FAQs 
The AHCA Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment FAQs have been updated to reflect yesterday’s CMS announcement that it is reevaluating the amounts that will be paid under its Accelerated Payment Program to Part A facility-based providers (including SNFs) and suspending its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers effective immediately.

Tomorrow’s HealthCare™ Portal for AL/PC Providers
Earlier today, BHSL released additional information regarding the Learning and Support Network for COVID-19 through Tomorrow’s HealthCare™ web-based portal, as well as information on how to contact one of the health system partners in your county for additional one-on-one coaching.

If you have any questions, please contact Gail Weidman at gweidman@phca.org.

 

 

Friday, April 24, 2020 – 7:50 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,599 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 230 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 38,652.

In addition, the department confirmed there have been 1,492 COVID-19-related deaths statewide. They are no longer including ‘probable’ COVID-19 cases in their overall count.

A few important updates:

Additional $20 Billion Distributed to Medicare Providers Today
HHS allocated another $20 billion today to all Medicare providers. Providers in PA may have received funds already…if not, you should expect them in the next week. HHS intends to send funds to Medicaid-only providers as well but is not doing so in this payment. We will continue to work with HHS to develop the system to get those funds distributed.

Combined with the first $30 billion in the CARES Act two weeks ago, HHS has now paid $50 billion total to Medicare providers.

HHS has developed an FAQ for the Provider Relief Fund with additional details. We will keep you updated with additional information as it is made available.

CMS Releases Guidance for Infection Control Protocols for Home Health Agencies
In March, CMS released guidance for infection control protocols for home health agencies. We wanted to share updated guidance which includes recommendations for home health care personnel who care for residents residing in residential care settings, such as assisted living and independent living.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kevin CysykGail Weidman or Chris Fisher.

U.S. House Passes Interim Coronavirus Relief Bill
Late yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 266, the fourth stimulus bill aimed at providing relief to small businesses. The $484 billion deal refills the Small Business Administration’s depleted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by $310 billion and includes coronavirus testing funding ($25 billion).

Some PHCA members may qualify for this program. For more details, click here.

 

 

Thursday, April 23, 2020 – 6:40 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,369 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – an increase of 213 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 37,053.

In addition, the department confirmed today there have been 1,394 COVID-19-related deaths statewide. This decrease comes after the department determined it will no longer include ‘probable’ COVID-19 cases in their overall count.

A few important updates:

Our Advocacy Efforts Continue
Last week, we activated a robust advocacy campaign urging Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to prioritize emergency funding for long-term care. And since then, we’ve sent more than 2,500 letters and emails.

We continue to receive calls from concerned legislators, asking how they can help support you and the work you’re doing to protect your residents and fellow staff.

That’s why we’ve organized a PHCA Legislative Briefing this Monday, April 27th. We’ll be discussing the status of Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities and our response to the COVID-19 epidemic. And we’ll be speaking with every member of our state legislature.

There has already been an overwhelming response to Monday’s call, and we look forward to advocating on your behalf. We’ll report back after the call.

Preparing for Widespread COVID-19 Testing
Over the last several weeks, there has been an increased national focus on the need for priority testing of long-term care workers and residents, and we’ve been extremely vocal on this issue in our media efforts.

CMS has recently emphasized the importance of testing for COVID-19 in long-term care.

As a reminder: When accessing testing, AHCA/NCAL recommends providers ensure that tests are FDA approved PCR tests (versus Antibody/Serology tests) and that the lab will bill Medicare directly.

Providers should have a plan in place to isolate residents who test positive, and follow CDC guidance for staff that test positive. More information and guidance on preparing for widespread testing is available here.

HHS Releases COVID-19 Workforce Virtual Toolkit
HHS has developed this portal to provide a curated set of resources and tools for decision-makers managing healthcare workforce challenges in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

If you have COVID-19 practices, plans, tools, or templates to share, please visit the ASPR TRACIE Information Exchange COVID-19 Information Sharing Page (registration required) and place your resources under the relevant topic area.

Updated FAQs on Provider Relief Fund
AHCA/NCAL’s FAQs on the Provider Relief Fund has been updated to include information on the additional CARES Act funding to be released this week.  We will continue to update the FAQ, as an increase of $75 billion is expected to pass the House and be signed by the President soon.

 

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 – 8:29 p.m.

Today, the Department of Health confirmed 1,156 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania – a decrease of 140 cases compared to yesterday. This brings the statewide total to 35,684.

In addition, the department confirmed 58 new deaths among positive and ‘probable’ cases, bringing the statewide total to 1,622.

During this evening’s press conference, Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine outlined an initial plan for the regional re-opening of Pennsylvania, which will begin on Friday, May 8th. In order to qualify for this re-opening, a region’s population must reach a target goal of 50 positive cases per 100,000 individuals over the course of 14 days.

As part of this regional re-opening effort, regions or counties will be categorized into three different phases: red, yellow and green.

The red phase, which currently applies to the entire state, mandates strict social distancing, the closure of non-life sustaining businesses and building safety protocols.

As regions or counties move into the yellow phase, some restrictions on work and social interaction will ease while others, such as the closures of schools, gyms, and other indoor recreation centers, as well as limitations around large gatherings, remain in place.

The green phase eases most restrictions by lifting the stay-at-home and business closure orders to allow strategic reopening while prioritizing public health. This phase will facilitate a return to a “new normal”.

We’ll keep you updated on this plan as it progresses.

A few important updates:

More Federal Stimulus Funding Headed to Pennsylvania
Later this week, HHS will begin distributing the remaining funds from the federal CARES Act, or the second stimulus bill.

Many of our SNF providers received their first payment two weeks ago, which was based on 2019 Medicare billing.

This will be the second payment, which will be based on other factors (including Medicaid).

Funds will start going out as early as this Friday. Here is what we know:

  • SNFs are clearly part of a tranche of funds that HHS is using to pay providers based on their total revenue. It will distribute $20 billion of the overall $40 billion based on a percentage of providers total revenue. We do not know the exact formula yet, but providers who have a high level of Medicaid and/or Medic