Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Weeks of Nov. 22 and 29

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA Covid-19 updateThe state’s coronavirus webpage indicates there were an average of 9,222 new COVID-19 cases per day Dec. 2 and 3, bleakly demonstrating the current surge of the disease in Michigan. However, 55.6% of Michiganders ages 5 and older were fully vaccinated as of Dec. 3, and more than 1.6 million residents had received booster shots as of that date.

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.

Collaborative Efforts Urge Public to Take Precautions, Get Vaccinated

As the omicron variant, the latest version of the evolving coronavirus, begins to appear in the United States, the MHA, its members and public health agencies are urging the public to be particularly mindful of precautions they can take to guard against infection. At this time, there is no evidence to indicate omicron is present in Michigan. However, the MHA will remain in close contact with the State Department of Laboratories as it sequences samples and will keep members apprised of any developments.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the MHA issued a joint press release Dec. 2 using a new set of infographics developed by the association. These images show the percentages of vaccinated versus unvaccinated COVID-19 hospitalizations, those in ICUs and those on ventilators. The release urged the public to get vaccinated to not only protect their own health, but the health of healthcare workers and to avoid additional strain on the state’s healthcare systems.

MHA-member health systems provided the data for this effort. The release included the following messages:

  • Three out of four COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated (76%).
  • 87% of COVID-19 ICU patients are unvaccinated.
  • 88% of COVID-19 ventilator patients are unvaccinated.

Members are encouraged to share these figures along with their organizations’ local data to maintain the public’s awareness. Members with questions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.

In addition, the MHA published a consensus statement Nov. 22 to statewide media on behalf of the chief medical officers of its member hospitals urging the public to take action to help slow COVID-19 growth throughout the state and educate them about the serious nature of the current surge and hospital capacity issues. MHA members are encouraged to use this statement locally or use it as a template for an organization-specific update to their communities. This message has been widely broadcast throughout the state (see related article).

Members with questions about vaccines and COVID-19 precautions may contact Ruthanne Sudderth at the MHA.

CMS Delays Enforcement of Healthcare Worker Vaccine Mandate as Courts Issue Injunctions

Although Michigan was not impacted by the Nov. 29 preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) healthcare worker vaccine mandate in 10 states, a separate preliminary injunction issued Nov. 30 does affect Michigan by placing a hold on the mandate in all other states. The federal government has appealed each order to the U.S. Court of Appeals in their respective circuits and asked the appellate courts to set aside the district courts’ preliminary injunction pending appeal.

Subsequently, the CMS issued a memorandum Dec. 2 confirming that it will not enforce its vaccine mandate while the court orders are in effect. The memo states that the CMS has “suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of this rule pending future developments in the litigation.” It also states that “while these preliminary injunctions are in effect, surveyors must not survey providers for compliance with the requirements of the” mandate.

The document does not state what the CMS would do when and if the preliminary injunctions are removed, such as setting new compliance dates.

The federal mandates do not impact hospitals’ ability to implement their own organization-based staff vaccine requirements if they choose to adopt such a policy.

MHA members are encouraged to follow the American Hospital Association (AHA) blog authored by Sean Marotta, a partner at Hogan Lovells and outside counsel for the AHA. The blog will be updated regularly as new developments occur. The MHA will also keep members apprised of developments. Members with questions may contact Amy Barkholz at the MHA.

Medicaid Coverage Expands to Cover Authorized In-home COVID Test Kits

The MDHHS recently released concurrent proposed and final policies to expand Medicaid coverage of COVID-19 testing to include home testing kits authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when administered consistent with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The expanded coverage for dates of service on and after Aug. 30, 2021, is contingent upon approval by the CMS. Approved testing kits must be prescribed or ordered by a Medicaid-enrolled participating pharmacy. Coverage will continue through 15 months following the end of the federal public health emergency. Comments should be submitted by Jan. 4. Questions may be directed to Vickie Kunz 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).