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:

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of June 8

MHA Covid-19 update

COVID-19 UpdateThe MHA continues to keep members apprised of developments during the COVID-19 pandemic through regular email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates on how the pandemic is affecting Michigan hospitals are outlined below.

Data Due June 15 to Potentially Qualify for Further COVID-19 Funding from HHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has requested information from hospitals to determine the distribution of $10 billion to hospitals that have been particularly burdened with COVID-19 cases. Each healthcare facility with a Medicare Tax Identification Number is asked to submit the number of COVID-19-positive inpatients admitted from Jan. 1 through June 10.

Submission of this data by 9 p.m. ET June 15 is required to be eligible to receive the funding, but it is not a guarantee of eligibility. The HHS has posted a frequently asked questions document about funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; information on this round of funding begins on page 26. The data must be submitted through the HHS’s TeleTracking system. More information on setting up an account and entering data is available on TeleTracking’s help webpage or by calling TeleTracking Technical Support at (877) 570-6903. Members with questions about federal funding may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

Policy Updated on Decontaminating N95 Masks

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reissued emergency use authorizations related to respirator decontamination, noting that some respirators should not be decontaminated for reuse. The agency will no longer recommend decontamination for the reuse of respirators manufactured in China or those that have exhalation valves. Decontamination will be authorized only on non-cellulose-compatible N95 respirators. Healthcare personnel should use the decontamination process only when new, FDA-cleared N95 respirators, NIOSH-approved N95 respirators or other FDA-authorized respirators are unavailable.

State Issues Guidance on Testing Frequency and Available Capacity

To ensure available COVID-19 testing resources are being effectively used in high-risk populations and/or settings across the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources (MDHHS) issued recommendations June 10 on the ideal frequency of COVID-19 testing. The guidance assumes a scenario where sufficient testing supplies and capacity are available. To help meet the level of testing envisioned in these recommendations, the MDHHS has also published information regarding test sites that provide services at no cost to the patient and laboratories with available testing supplies and capacity to allow for new providers and congregate care facilities to send specimens. The June 10 recommendations and additional information on testing priorities and frequency by population is available in the June 10 update emailed to members.

Resources and Guidance Available for Lab Supplies and Reporting Results

The FDA’s web-based resource Testing Supply Substitution Strategies contains detailed information to support labs performing authorized COVID-19 tests, including validated supply alternatives for use when there is a supply issue with some components of a test. This PowerPoint presentation, which can be downloaded from the FDA website, does not alter emergency use authorizations that have already been issued nor specific FDA regulatory requirements. It is provided solely to address concerns about the availability of certain critical components of DOVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided guidance that specifies additional data that laboratories must report with their COVID-19 test results. The new data should be reported as soon as possible, but no later than Aug. 1. More information is available in the department’s news release.

Workplace Requirements for Outpatient Facilities

Executive Order 2020-114 stipulates accommodations for all workers required to return to the workplace during the pandemic. Section 9 of EO 2020-114 pertains specifically to outpatient healthcare facilities, including clinics and physician offices, and outlines requirements that do not apply to inpatient hospitals.

The requirement for checking patient temperatures for these facilities is different from the evaluation required for employees at inpatient or outpatient facilities. This section of EO 2020-114 does not change the requirements for employee health evaluations prior to entering healthcare facilities when reporting to work. Questions on the requirements should be directed to Amy Barkholz at the MHA.

The Joint Commission Offers Webinar as On-site Surveys Resume

The Joint Commission will host a webinar titled The Joint Commission – Plan for Resuming Surveys from 11 a.m. to noon June 18. Registration is required, and more information is available in the related article.

Blue Cross Cost Sharing Waiver Extended Through End of Year

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) announced it is extending cost sharing (copays, deductibles and coinsurance) waivers for COVID-19 testing and treatment through Dec. 31. These measures originally were set to expire June 30. The announcement says the cost share waivers “apply to members in fully insured commercial PPO and HMO plans, as well as individuals in fully insured Medicare Advantage plans. BCBSM will work with employer group customers that are self-insured to make decisions regarding their own benefits.” Members with questions on COVID-19 payer issues may contact Jason Jorkasky at the MHA.

“Don’t Delay Care” Campaign Update

The MHA “Hospitals are Safe – Don’t Delay Care” campaign began on social media and statewide television in mid-May and will end during the week of June 15. The campaign has focused on video views, building awareness for those who may be making decisions about seeking medical care during COVID-19. As of June 12, the video had been viewed on Facebook more than 577,000 times. Although the campaign is ending, the association will continue to share this message through its normal social media content. For more information on this or other public relations campaigns, contact Ruthanne Sudderth 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 members: