Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of June 22

MHA Covid-19 update

The MHA continues to keep members apprised of developments during the pandemic through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates on how the pandemic is affecting Michigan hospitals are outlined below.

Emergency CON Beds Extended to Aug. 31

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s state of emergency through July 16, the emergency approval of hospital beds under the Certificate of Need (CON) process was extended through Aug. 31. Executive Order (EO) 2020-82 specifies those beds can remain online until the last day of the month following the end of the emergency declaration. The MHA will continue to seek clarification from the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to determine whether this authorization can remain in place beyond Aug. 31. Members with questions may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.

State Lab Limits Facilities from Which It Will Accept Testing Samples

The MDHHS released a new alert from the Bureau of Laboratories (BOL) June 22 stating that, due to a high volume of requests, the BOL is currently limiting the COVID-19 samples it is accepting. At this time, it will accept only samples from state-owned institutions of health and corrections, facilities facing active outbreaks, and small congregate care facilities (fewer than 100 screens) that have not established baseline/initial screens of residents and staff.

Organizations that do not meet this criteria and need immediate testing support should refer to the state-provided list of laboratories that have capacity to partner with new entities for COVID-19 testing. As noted in the guidance accompanying the MDHHS emergency order requiring nursing homes to increase testing, those nursing facilities that require state assistance for conducting the tests should email the department with the name and location of the facility and the number of residents and staff needing testing.

Governor Creates Nursing Home Task Force, Extends Visitor Restrictions

The governor signed EO 2020-135 June 26, creating the Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force within the MDHHS. The task force will analyze data on COVID-19 in nursing facilities and make recommendations to the governor on improving data quality.

The task force is charged with recommending an action plan for preparing nursing homes for the potential of a future wave of COVID-19 cases by Aug. 31. The group will include individuals from state government, a representative of the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, bipartisan representation from both houses of the Legislature, and 13 other members appointed by the governor, including individuals with a personal or professional interest in the health, safety and welfare of nursing home residents and workers. The MHA will keep members apprised of any opportunity for involvement with this task force.

The governor also issued EO 2020-136 to extend the existing restrictions on visitation to healthcare facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities and juvenile justice facilities, but authorizes the MDHHS to gradually re-open visitation as circumstances permit. Hospitals are permitted by a June 3 MDHHS order to ease visitor restrictions if certain guidelines are followed. EO 2020-136 is effective immediately and continues through July 24.

Sen. Peters Reports on COVID-19 Funding for Hospitals, Urges Additional Funds be Distributed

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters released a report June 23 outlining findings of a study on COVID-19 relief funds from the CARES Act to hospitals. The report discloses that 41% of available hospital funding has not yet been distributed, despite hospitals’ financial distress.

The MHA worked closely with Sens. Peters and Debbie Stabenow and Michigan’s entire congressional delegation throughout the pandemic, and this report shows Peters’ tremendous commitment to healthcare in Michigan and beyond. The MHA will continue to advocate on the federal level for additional distribution of funding and for Medicare advance payment loans to be forgiven. Members with questions on federal advocacy may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

State Updates Publicly Available COVID-19 Data

The state has recently added additional COVID-19 data to its public data website, which may be of interest to members:

Hospital and health system data continues to be publicly reported on Mondays and Thursdays on the state’s “Data About Places” webpage. Members with data questions may contact Jim Lee at the MHA.

Canadian Border Remains Closed to Nonessential Travelers, Open to Healthcare Workers

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently confirmed that the Canadian land border will remain closed to nonessential travelers through July 21; that ban had been set to expire June 23. Healthcare workers are deemed essential and continue to be permitted to cross the border for duty. Members with questions on this issue may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.

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 member: