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COVID-19: National Preparedness Plan, FEMA Aid, OSHA Inspections

President Joe Biden on March 2 unveiled a new National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in which the administration pledges to work with Congress toward four goals:

  • protecting against and treating COVID-19 by:
    • combating vaccine misinformation and disinformation;
    • increasing American manufacturing capacity to produce an additional 1 billion vaccine doses per year;
    • accelerating research and development of a single COVID-19 vaccine that protects against all SARS-CoV-2 variants;
    • providing a second distribution of no-cost rapid COVID-19 at-home tests at COVIDTests.gov; and
    • establishing one-stop “Test to Treat” locations that provide no-cost COVID-19 testing and antiviral treatment at pharmacy-based clinics, community health centers, long-term care facilities, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs facilities;
  • preparing for new variants by:
    • improving data collection, sequencing, and wastewater surveillance capabilities;
    • leveraging a COVID-19 Variant Playbook to determine the effect of new variants on existing vaccines, treatments, and tests;
    • stockpiling at-home COVID-19 tests, antiviral pills, and masks for the general population for the first time; and
    • transitioning the Health and Human Services (HHS) Coordination Operations and Response Element (H-CORE), temporary emergency logistics and operational organization into a permanent agency structure at HHS;
  • preventing economic and educational shutdowns by:
    • providing guidance, tools, and resources, including ventilation and air filtration tools, to schools and businesses to help them stay open; and
    • working with Congress to reinstate tax credits for small and mid-size businesses to help them provide sick and family leave to deal with COVID-related absences; and
  • vaccinating the world by:
    • carrying out the nation’s promise to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses to other countries;
    • increasing investment in the Institute for Global Vaccine Access;
    • making emergency supplies, including oxygen, readily available; and
    • establishing a new health security financial intermediary fund at the World Bank in 2022.

FEMA Federal Share Extended

Biden also announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will continue to provide a 100 percent federal cost share through July 1 for COVID-19–related medical care, vaccination, testing, and prevention efforts.

This funding, set to expire April 1, is available to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, along with select nonprofit organizations. After July 1, the federal cost share will shift to 90 percent, an increase from the statutory minimum 75 percent federal cost share.

FEMA also will continue to provide a 100 percent federal cost share for National Guard response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDC Updates COVID-19 Community Levels

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 3 updated the COVID-19 community levels for the first time. More than 90 percent of the U.S. population is in a location with a low or moderate COVID-19 community level.

The agency also published a science brief detailing the methodology behind the COVID-19 community level framework. CDC selected the three indicators that determine the levels: new hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 per 100,000 population, new hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 per 100,000 population, and new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.

Community level data will be updated weekly on Thursdays.

OSHA COVID-19 Focused Inspections

The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will conduct a highly focused, short-term inspection initiative from March 9 to June 9. The inspections will be directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients.

The inspections aim to encourage employers to continue efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19, protect health care workers at heightened risk of exposure, and prepare for ongoing or future surges related to COVID-19.

In a memorandum, OSHA provides instructions and guidance to federal OSHA area offices about the focused inspections, which will comprise 15 percent of all inspections per region for the designated three-month period.

Hospitals might be selected for an inspection under this initiative if they meet one of these criteria:

  • follow-up inspection of a facility that previously received a COVID-19-related citation or hazard alert letter;
  • follow-up or monitoring inspection for randomly selected closed COVID-19 unprogrammed activity, to include COVID-19 complaints and Rapid Response Investigations; or
  • monitoring inspections for randomly selected facilities that were previously issued citations related to COVID-19 through remote-only inspection.

For questions regarding the memorandum, contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202.693.2190.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the pandemic.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

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About the Author

Emily Schweich is a senior communications associate for America's Essential Hospitals.

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