Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of Dec. 14
Posted on December 20, 2020
As hospitals across Michigan and the nation begin vaccinating their personnel against COVID-19, the MHA keeps members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.
Hospitals Immunizing Staff Against COVID-19
Pfizer began shipping its COVID-19 vaccine from its global warehouse in Michigan Dec. 14 and continued to deliver it to hospitals across the country throughout the week. Healthcare providers began inoculating staff members soon after the vaccine arrived. The MHA joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) in recognizing the start of this significant step and thanking healthcare workers for being first in line to receive the vaccine.
As the Pfizer vaccine was being delivered to hospitals, the Food and Drug Administration continued its process toward of evaluating the Moderna vaccine. The second vaccine was approved for emergency use the evening of Dec. 18, and initial shipments to hospitals began Dec. 20. Inoculations with the new vaccine could begin as soon as Dec. 21.
However, the MHA and its members were disappointed to learn that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will reduce the originally announced allocations of the Pfizer vaccine to many states, including Michigan, during its second week of distribution. The MHA issued a media statement Dec. 18 relaying the negative impact of the delay on Michigan hospitals and will continue to seek more timely and accurate information from the HHS, as well as additional vaccine.
The MDHHS clarified Dec. 18 that hospitals will be able to request both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. The state will continue to send weekly surveys to hospitals to determine the amount of vaccine needed the following week, which will allow hospitals to request both types of vaccine. The MHA has created a side-by-side comparison of some of the key storage, shipment and administration features of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the state will continue to post updated resources and tools on its provider education webpage, as well as additional details on its provider information document. The CDC has posted a webpage with tools and information on the Pfizer product, including interim clinical considerations. A key CDC recommendation is that the vaccine be administered alone and that providers allow 14 days between administering this vaccine and other vaccines.
While the vaccinations are widely seen as the beginning of the end of the pandemic, it will take time to inoculate everyone who wants a vaccine. Michiganders are urged to continue to mask up, practice social distancing, get their flu shots and practice hand hygiene as they await their opportunity to be vaccinated. The state provides a COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard with information about how many providers in each county are enrolled in the vaccine program, where shipments have gone and more, with a time delay of about 24 hours.
Members with questions on matters relating to COVID-19 vaccines should contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.
Congress Agrees on National COVID-19 Relief Package
News outlets reported the evening of Dec. 20 that congressional leaders had reached bipartisan agreement on providing financial relief to U.S. residents and businesses struggling due to the pandemic, including making grants available to healthcare providers. The legislative text was still being crafted that night, and voting is expected to take place Dec. 21.
MHA Requests Order Allowing HCP Experiencing Vaccine Side Effects to Work
The MHA sent a letter Dec. 17 to MDHHS Director Robert Gordon and Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun, MD, urging them to issue an order that ensures healthcare personnel (HCP) who recently received COVID-19 vaccines are not unnecessarily removed from the workforce because of vaccine side effects that mimic COVID-19 infection. The letter requested the order exclude known vaccine side effects from the definition of COVID-19 symptoms Public Act (PA) 238 of 2020, which requires that employees displaying the principle symptoms of COVID-19 not report to work until 10 days after the principal symptoms of COVID-19 first appeared. The principle symptoms of COVID-19 include known side effects of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. PA 238 further gives the director or chief medical executive of the MDHHS the power to issue an order modifying the definition of COVID-19 symptoms. The MHA noted that, without an order from the MDHHS exempting symptoms from a known vaccine administration, there could be unnecessary staff absences due to the inoculations.
The MHA encouraged the state to consider recently issued official CDC guidance on handling HCP who have received COVID-19 vaccines and experience mild side effects as it makes decisions on this issue. The CDC guidance urges healthcare facilities to evaluate any personnel who have symptoms but recently received vaccine and allow HCP to continue working as appropriate, depending on the nature and severity of the symptoms. This guidance applies only to symptoms such as fever and fatigue and not to those that are not known side effects of the vaccines, such as cough and loss of taste/smell.
MDHHS Order Relaxed but Extended to Jan. 15
The MDHHS announced Dec. 18 that it is extending to Jan. 15 a public health order that will keep restaurants and bars closed to indoor dining, but will reopen many other indoor venues where patrons can wear masks while inside. The governor and the MDHHS indicated the orders that have been in place since November have contributed to an improvement in Michigan’s COVID-19 year-end surge.
The new order reopens in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place. The order takes effect Dec. 21.
OBRA Electronic System Again Delayed
The MDHHS Office of Specialized Nursing Home/Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) Programs recently announced an additional delay in changing the submission of forms 3877 and 3878 from a paper process to an electronic one. The “go live” implementation date of the online system has been delayed from Jan. 19 to at least April 2021 (see related article).
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC). Members with MHA-specific questions should contact the following MHA staff members:
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