Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of Jan. 10

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA Covid-19 updateThe state of Michigan held a press conference Jan. 11 to discuss the rapid rise in case numbers, hospitalizations (especially pediatric hospitalizations) and positivity rates. Speakers urged all residents who are eligible to be both vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible. Representatives from Children’s Hospital of Michigan joined the event to discuss the concerning rise in childhood case rates and hospitalizations.

The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

SCOTUS Upholds CMS Vaccine Mandate, Enforcement Proceeds

The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions Jan. 13 on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandates. As expected, the court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing the vaccine or test mandate issued under OSHA, but upheld the ability of the CMS to enforce the healthcare worker vaccine mandate.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of state vaccine mandates in a variety of settings, as well as mandates by private employers. These challenges were different because they presented the question of whether Congress had authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements through the agencies of OSHA and the CMS/Department of Health and Human Services.

Michigan was not one of the 26 states covered by the court injunction to the CMS mandate, and Michigan has no other state-issued prohibitions on enforcing federal or private vaccine mandates. Hence, the mandate and enforcement move forward. The currently posted deadline for completing the first required vaccine dose is Jan. 27, and the second dose is required by Feb. 28. Boosters are currently not part of the mandate.

The MHA responded to a number of media inquiries following the Supreme Court announcement, including from The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and MiBiz. The association reiterated its long-standing position that mandates of this kind should be left up to local healthcare decision-makers and that hospitals and the MHA have always urged every resident who is eligible to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. The MHA also stressed that, while the small number of hospital workers who have already ended their employment due to an organization’s mandate did not necessarily worsen the existing staffing shortages, the timing of a nationwide mandate amid this omicron surge could not be worse, as the shortages are more serious than ever. The association assured reporters that hospitals will proceed with compliance and that the MHA and its members will continue to strenuously advocate for staffing assistance from federal and state partners.

Members with questions about deadlines, enforcement or other elements of the mandate are encouraged to review the posted CMS guidance to ensure their organizations are prepared to comply.

MIOSHA: Hospitals May Currently Use CDC Quarantine Guidance Without Penalty

The MHA has continued to work with state regulators on securing updated guidance for hospitals and health systems as it relates to worker quarantine periods. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules have not yet been fully rescinded to allow for healthcare settings to confidently follow new, less restrictive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine guidance.

However, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has stated it was told OSHA is in the process of withdrawing the relevant rules and the state agency is preparing to update its rules to align with the revised federal rules. MIOSHA also indicated that, until updates are made at the federal and state levels, it will not issue citations specifically regarding quarantine and isolation requirements if an employer were following the Dec. 23, 2021, updated CDC guidance for healthcare personnel.

An existing OSHA provision recognizes the CDC’s ‘‘Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages.’’ This guidance allows elimination of quarantine for certain healthcare workers as a last resort if the workers’ absence would mean there are no longer enough staff to provide safe patient care, specific other amelioration strategies have already been tried, patients have been notified, and workers are using additional personal protective equipment at all times.

The MHA will continue to keep members apprised of developments on this issue. Members with questions may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

Long-term Care Facility Capacity for COVID Care Increases

Michigan now has 50 Tier-2 COVID-19 Relief Facilities (CRFs) able to take COVID-19 patients from hospitals at discharge if their normal nursing facility isn’t able to accommodate them. This is an increase from just 27 CRFs late in 2021 and includes an Upper Peninsula facility in Hancock.

In addition, Michigan now has nine facilities designated as Care and Recovery Centers (CRC)s, including one in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula.

The CRC and the CRF programs were established under Michigan Public Act 231 of 2020. These programs were designed to ensure Michigan’s nursing homes were prepared to provide care to individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus under transmission-based precautions within the guidelines and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan’s nursing homes must be reviewed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to ensure they meet the minimum criteria outlined within the legislation and associated MDHHS policies. Members with questions may contact Paige Fults at the MHA.

Red Cross Declares First Ever National Blood Supply Crisis

The American Red Cross declared a national blood supply shortage and operational crisis Jan. 10. This is the first time such a crisis has been declared, and it could impact hospitals’ ability to provide certain types of care or transfusions in the coming days and weeks. This is a result of the current COVID-19 surge causing canceled donation appointments, Red Cross staffing shortages and more.

The Red Cross chief medical officer sent a notification directly to hospital transfusion leaders outlining these operational challenges and how to plan for expected shortages. The Red Cross also urged the public to donate blood as soon as possible.

The MHA will be amplifying to the public the need for blood donors through its social and traditional media channels.

Michigan Sees Surge in Unemployment Fraud

Michigan has seen a recent surge in unemployment fraud claims, according to the MHA Unemployment Compensation Program (MHA UCP). The increase in unemployment fraud is related to identity theft that occurs when the state Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) system is penetrated. Over the past several weeks, the MHA UCP has seen fraud in about 15 to 20% of all new claims for its clients.

The MHA UCP has worked closely with the UIA on this issue and has mitigated the impact for clients, who have not been assessed charges on these claims. To learn more about the services available through the MHA UCP, contact Neil MacVicar at the MHA.

Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpageQuestions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC).

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of April 5

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA COVID-19 UpdateMichigan hospitals are quickly reaching inpatient capacity as coronavirus variants spread throughout the state and contribute to a severe surge in COVID-19. The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

Chief Medical Officers Urge Michiganders to Help Prevent COVID-19 Spread

The MHA released a media statement April 9 on behalf of Michigan’s hospital/health system chief medical officers urging people to protect those who cannot be vaccinated by taking the responsible, proven preventive measures. The statement provides context on the increased transmission and risks of the virus and associated complications for children.

In addition, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference April 9, which also featured Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health president and CEO and MHA board chair-elect, outlining Michigan’s COVID-19 caseload and the need to stop the spread of the virus. The governor is urging federal agencies to redirect resources, including a large influx of vaccine, to Michigan as soon as possible. Her administration has indicated it is focused on getting more vaccine supply to providers/mass vaccination clinics where it can be administered most quickly to stop viral spread.

The Protect Michigan Commission is also planning regional press events, some of which will include hospital/health system participants, to promote the need for everyone eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The MHA will keep members apprised and share any messaging or materials that hospitals can use on their own platforms to amplify the message.

Questions on COVID-19 vaccines should be directed to Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.

Testing and Vaccination Key to Curtailing Viral Spread

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is offering free, on-site rapid COVID-19 testing in partnership with Michigan’s intermediate school districts, local school districts and local health departments for residents returning from spring break travel. These fully staffed events are open to students, educators, district staff and community members, and will be scheduled prior to classes restarting. The current list of locations is available on the MDHHS website. Members with questions on testing sites should contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

As part of a virtual session with MHA staff April 5, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) outlined two strategies hospitals can follow to help address vaccine hesitancy in their communities. She encourages hospitals and health systems to use every patient interaction as an opportunity to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine, regardless of the reason for the visit. In addition, she suggested facilities provide vaccine educational opportunities in the form of webinars, town halls and other events that feature physicians and can reach vaccine-hesitant groups.

As the vaccine becomes more widely available, hospitals are encouraged to revisit offers to vaccinate employees who declined vaccines when first made available to them. Some may have wanted to wait for a single dose vaccine or a more convenient time, were reluctant to get the vaccine while pregnant, or faced other circumstances that may have since changed. In addition, as the state receives media requests, it is expected to begin sharing data on healthcare personnel vaccination rates. To ensure healthcare organizations are accurately represented in any data sharing that occurs, members are urged to confirm their employee vaccine data is up to date in the state’s EMResource portal.

MDHHS Reinstates 14-Day Quarantine, Reminds Providers to Use Michigan EUA Fact Sheets

Due to increasing case rates and variant spread in Michigan, the MDHHS is reinstating a 14-day quarantine for anyone who experiences close contact with a COVID-19-positive person, removing the option for a 10-day quarantine. The department’s COVID-19 public health frequently asked questions document has been updated to reflect the change.

The department also reminds vaccinators that they need to provide the Michigan versions of the emergency use authorization (EUA) fact sheets available on the MDHHS website. Each fact sheet has been updated and includes information on the Michigan Care Improvement Registry.

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).

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Weeks of Nov. 23 and Nov. 30

MHA Covid-19 update

04COVID-19 patients continued to fill Michigan hospitals throughout the Thanksgiving holiday and into December, while drug companies Pfizer and Moderna applied for emergency authorization of their respective COVID-19 vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration (see related article). The MHA keeps members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

Nursing Home Application Deadline Extended; CRC Bulletin Issued

The state announced Nov. 30 that it is extending the deadline from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15 for long-term care (LTC) facilities to become care and recovery centers (CRCs) and COVID relief (CR) facilities. The MHA has advocated for this extension to ensure LTCs do not transfer residents to hospitals without medical indication simply to avoid being out of compliance with new law requirements. While this is a positive step, the MHA will continue to advocate for more permanent solutions to transfer issues and the number of LTCs approved as CRCs and CR facilities.

The MDHHS also issued a bulletin for hospital-based CRCs. Bulletin Number MSA 20-78 supplements Bulletin Number MSA 20-73, which established operational requirements for nursing facilities to operate as CRCs during times of a public health emergency and provides a pathway for Michigan hospitals to establish hospital-based CRCs to support the safe care and isolation of COVID-19-positive individuals. Details about requirements for hospitals seeking designation as a CRC, how to apply and more are available in the bulletin.

Quarantine Duration Requirements Addressed

The MHA hosted its weekly call of hospital/health system chief medical officers Dec. 4, which was joined by representatives of the MDHHS. Among the topics discussed was quarantine requirements and the new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising the public that shorter quarantine periods of 7-10 days may be acceptable, depending on their access to testing and their symptoms or lack thereof.

According to Public Act 238 of 2020, healthcare workers who are exposed to COVID-19 but test negative and are not symptomatic are still able to report to work. Employees’ quarantine needs apply to how they spend time outside of work. There remains in state statute a 14-day quarantine provision for employees who test positive for COVID-19. The MHA is working with state officials and legislators to amend Public Act 238 of 2020 to bring quarantine times for employees who test positive in line with the CDC guidance. Additional information on the statute and administration rules is available from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA), as discussed below.

Healthcare facilities and professionals may get questions from patients/community members on this change in quarantine guidance. The state announced its recommendation that the public continue to use the 14-day quarantine as a best practice, but if that is not feasible, the 10-day recommendation should be followed. The state did not endorse a seven-day quarantine with a negative test as a safe alternative.

MIOSHA Emergency Rules Clarified

The MHA hosted a call Dec. 1 with representatives from MIOSHA regarding its emergency rules that, among other items, emphasize the use of a remote workforce and proper use of personal protective equipment.

MIOSHA provided an overview of the rule set and answered questions, emphasizing the agency’s reliance on CDC guidelines in developing the rules and the availability of the free MI Symptoms app to assist employers. Questions or requests for the meeting materials should be directed to Adam Carlson at the MHA.

New Uses of Surge Capacity Beds May Require Certificate of Need Approval

Temporarily licensed surge capacity beds that have already been approved by the Bureau of Community and Health Systems (BCHS) may continue to be used if the following criteria are met:

  • An originally required emergency certificate of need (CON) approved by the MDHHS remains in effect.
  • The facility has maintained the BCHS-approved surge capacity so that it can be used within 48 hours if needed.
  • The facility has not notified the BCHS since the original approval that it has voluntarily surrendered the surge capacity.

If facilities with existing BCHS-approved surge capacity beds want to operate these beds in a different location, manner or use than originally requested, they must contact the MDHHS CON program, as applicable, and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) State Licensing Section to determine whether new approval is required. Such requests must include a detailed narrative description of the proposed new use, space and floor plans of the area showing the new bed locations. If the proposed space deviates from current BCHS physical plant regulatory requirements, such as minimum square footage, hand sink locations or number of patients/residents to a room, the facility must include a narrative description of how those issues will be addressed to ensure patient/resident safety and care needs.

If the state has questions or concerns on a proposal as submitted, the Health Facilities Engineering Section engineer assigned to the facility will follow up as needed to address those concerns.

All applications not previously approved must apply to both the MDHHS and LARA as applicable and required. Both BCHS-HFD and Appendix E forms are required when applying. Members with questions may contact Paige Fults at the MHA.

BCBSM Provides Update on Coverage for COVID-19 Care and Testing

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) recently announced that it will continue to waive cost-sharing for its members diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 through March 31, 2021. This extension of a temporary benefit, originally set to expire Dec. 31, means members will not pay out-of-pocket costs — copays, deductibles or coinsurance — for the medical care and pharmacy costs associated with COVID-19. Members with feedback or questions are encouraged to contact Jason Jorkasky at the MHA.

Judge Denies Injunction for Bars, Restaurants Ordered Closed by MDHHS

A federal judge Dec. 2 denied a motion for preliminary injunction seeking to end the temporary MDHHS-ordered closure of bars and restaurants intended to prevent further spread of COVID-19. The MHA submitted an amicus or “friend of the court” brief in support of the temporary emergency measures enacted by the MDHHS. The MHA also issued a media statement supporting the order, which is effective from Nov. 18 through Dec. 8.

The ruling on Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association v. Gordon was issued by Judge Paul Maloney of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. It states that the motion was not granted to plaintiffs because it found the MDHHS’ reasoning for the order convincing and that groups tend to linger more in those settings than transitional environments like a food court or airport dining area.

Maloney further stated that, because the Michigan courts have not yet had an opportunity to evaluate the state issues and these challenges must be adjudicated before the federal claims can be considered, he scheduled a Dec. 17 certification hearing and will accept briefs from the parties to determine which legal questions to pass on to the state courts for further consideration. The MHA’s brief in support of the MDHHS provided medical evidence of the effectiveness of face covering and social distancing in curbing the spread of infection and reducing strain on the healthcare system. There are several other legal challenges in federal and state court against state and local public health orders requiring face coverings, social distancing measures and cooperation with contact tracing. Members with questions about the ruling may contact Amy Barkholz 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: