According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker, the omicron variant of COVID-19 is now the dominant strain across the U.S. The CDC’s model indicates that more than 95% of cases in the nation as of Jan. 1 may be due to omicron.
President Announces Updated Testing and Military Personnel Strategy
President Joe Biden Dec. 21 announced the federal government will make 500 million at-home rapid tests available to Americans and will deploy roughly 1,000 military personnel to hospitals across the U.S. to help ease the stress the current COVID-19 surge has placed on providers.
The rapid tests will be free of charge and available via an online request form, after which they will be delivered to residents’ homes. The plan also includes opening new federal testing sites and sending out hundreds of federal vaccinators. These tactics will begin in January according to the White House fact sheet on this effort.
Members are encouraged to review the entire fact sheet, which discusses other elements of the plan, including the distribution of more ventilators, production increases for supplies, federal testing sites and more.
The MHA will keep members apprised as more information becomes available about what assistance will be directed to Michigan as a result of this announcement. Members with questions about federal actions may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
Boosters Expanded to 12- to 15-year-olds; Waiting Period Shortened
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC have announced that children aged 12 to 15 may now receive booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The agencies also approved a shortened waiting period from six months to five months to receive a booster following a primary series of either of the two vaccines. In addition, certain immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 are eligible for a booster and may receive it 28 days after the completion of their initial series.
The two-month booster interval recommendation for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not changed.
The FDA reached its decision after reportedly reviewing data from Israel, which included information on 6,300 people ages 12-15 who received a booster shot at least five months after their initial two-dose series. The data showed no new cases of two possible side effects that had been observed in some young people who received the vaccine — myocarditis and pericarditis.
Urge Senate to Support Healthcare Staffing Funds
The MHA issued an action alert before the holidays, urging all members to contact their state senators and ask that they support critical healthcare staffing funding, which passed the state House with bipartisan support in December. As lawmakers prepare to return to session the week of Jan. 10, it is important to continue advocacy efforts.
House Bill 5523 would appropriate $300 million for healthcare retention and recruitment, which could help hospitals and other providers navigate the serious worker shortages that currently exist amid a pandemic surge. The MHA Legislative Action Center provides key messages on this issue and contact information for senators. Members with questions 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 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC).