COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 17, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, April 17, 2020

President Trump released new guidelines outlining the White House’s plan for reopening the country from its current state of lockdown. Before states or regions can initiate this three-phased plan, they must show a downward trajectory of cases over a 14-day period, have a robust testing program in place, and have the capacity to treat all patients without crisis care.

  • Phase One recommends much of the current status quo, including that people avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Vulnerable individuals would continue to shelter in place. Employers would be encouraged to continue teleworking when possible. Employers can reopen their physical locations in phases but would be advised to close common areas and enforce social distancing. Phase One continues to advise against all non-essential travel. All schools and most businesses would remain closed. Large venues can operate under physical distancing protocols. Elective outpatient surgeries can resume.
  • Phase Two is for states and regions with no evidence of a rebound in cases. Some social distancing recommendations would be relaxed. For example, people can gather in groups of up to 50. Non-essential travel can resume. Vulnerable people would be advised to remain sheltered at home. Telework would still be encouraged, and physical offices would still be encouraged to close their common areas. Schools can reopen; elective surgeries can resume for both in-patient and out-patient procedures. Large venues can expand capacity, and bars would be able to reopen with limited capacity.
  • Phase Three is an overall return to normalcy for states and regions with no evidence of a rebound in cases.

Some providers received their Provider Relief Fund payment on Friday, April 17. These distributions are still part of the first $30 billion distribution that began last Friday. CMS has not yet distributed the second round of funding that was described in the April 16 Daily Update.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Congressional negotiators are making progress on a deal for additional funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s emergency assistance programs. Republicans prefer to pass a bill that only addresses the SBA funding, while Democrats prefer a bill that includes funding for other priorities in addition to the SBA funding.

  • Leader McCarthy agreed to include at least one of the Democrat priorities; that is extra funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to distribute throughout the healthcare system.
  • As of April 16, the SBA announced that both the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) have experienced a lapse in funds. By law, they cannot extend loans to new applicants until additional appropriations are made by Congress. Applications submitted prior to April 16 will continue to be processed. Currently, the SBA is placing a hold on new applications for PPP and EIDL, pending congressional action.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published updated guidance on what it considers to be essential workers. The guidance is advisory; it is not a federal law or requirement. However, many states defer to the DHS guidance as their state policy.

CMS published guidance explaining how it will reimburse Rural Health Clinics (RHC) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) for telehealth services during the public health emergency.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it is forming a new public-private partnership to expedite COVID-19 vaccine and treatment options. The partnership will include the NIH, HHS, CDC, FDA and several large pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

The FDA provided an "At-A-Glance Summary" of its major pandemic actions, It includes information regarding topics such as medical products and equipment, therapeutics, vaccines, and food safety and supply. It also provides a Diagnostic Testing FAQ .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will launch a new app that will facilitate standardized exchange of health information related to COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the awards it has made so far in its Dislocated Worker Grants (DWGs) program. More details are available.

The Department of Justice's Elder Justice Initiative is providing links on where to report COVID-19 scams. It also provides general resources for seniors to report elder fraud and abuse.