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COVID-19: OSHA Guidance, Infection Control

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has expanded the pool of qualified professionals able to serve as vaccinators.

Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), HHS has the authority to add additional categories of qualified people authorized to prescribe, dispense, and administer COVID-19 vaccines. This HHS action allows medical, nursing, and other health care students in the professions listed under the PREP Act with proper training and professional supervision to serve as vaccinators.

People interested in administering vaccinations should visit PHE.gov/COVIDvaccinators to determine if they are eligible.

OSHA Updates Enforcement Plan

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated its COVID-19 enforcement plan and launched a National Emphasis Program for COVID-19.

The agency will continue to implement the Department of Labor’s COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan to protect and prioritize COVID-19 inspections involving deaths or multiple hospitalizations due to occupational exposure to the virus, focusing on protecting workers from retaliation.

OSHA will perform onsite workplace inspections when possible but will use phone and video conferencing in place of face-to-face employee interviews when possible. The agency encourages employers to provide data and documents electronically to compliance safety and health officers to avoid in-person contact. In cases where onsite inspections cannot be performed safely, the area director will approve remote-only inspections, which will be documented and coded N-10-COVID-19 REMOTE.

CDC Updates Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its health care infection prevention and control recommendations to incorporate guidance for vaccinated people. The new guidance focuses on visitation, along with work restrictions and quarantine for asymptomatic health care personnel, patients, and residents.

Previously, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance urged post–acute care facilities to limit indoor visitation when the COVID-19 county positivity rate was greater than 10 percent and when there was an outbreak occurring in the facility. Now, indoor visitation for unvaccinated residents should be limited to solely compassionate care situations if the county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and if 70 percent of facility residents are fully vaccinated. Visitation also should be limited for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents with SARS-CoV-2 infection, as well as those in quarantine, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based procedures or be released from quarantine. Facilities in outbreak status should follow guidance from CMS and state and local health authorities.

Fully vaccinated health care personnel with higher-risk exposures to the virus who are asymptomatic no longer need to be restricted from work for 14 days following exposure. Fully vaccinated individuals with immunocompromising conditions that might affect the level of protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine, such as organ transplantation or cancer treatment, should continue to be restricted from work after a high-risk exposure.

Due to limited information about vaccine effectiveness, higher risk of severe disease and death, and physical distancing challenges, fully vaccinated inpatients and residents in health care settings should continue to quarantine after prolonged close contact — defined as being within six feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period — with someone with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The agency no longer recommends quarantine for residents being admitted to a post-acute care facility if they are fully vaccinated and have not had prolonged close contact with someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection in the prior 14 days.

CMS Raises Medicare Payment for COVID-19 Vaccine

CMS updated the Medicare payment rates for COVID-19 vaccine administration, effective for services provided on or after March 15. The new rate will be approximately $40 to administer each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; rates will be geographically adjusted.

For COVID-19 vaccines administered before March 15, Medicare will pay $28.39 for a single-dose vaccine. For a COVID-19 vaccine requiring a series of two or more doses, Medicare will pay $16.94 for the initial dose(s) in the series and $28.39 for the final dose in the series. These rates also are geographically adjusted.

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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