The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 13 issued new infection control guidance that requires source control for everyone entering a health care facility, regardless of symptoms, during the COVID-19 emergency to prevent asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission.
Health care personnel should wear face masks if available; cloth face coverings are not sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). Visitors and patients may wear a cloth face covering or a face mask, if available. Health care providers should continue to actively screen everyone who enters a health care facility for fever and COVID-19 symptoms.
As community transmission spreads, the agency encourages health care facilities to shift to regular screening and universal source control for providers instead of contact tracing (i.e., finding a sick person and tracing their interactions).
The agency also updated:
- Strategies to Optimize the Supply of PPE and other Equipment;
- Interim Guidance for Discontinuation of Transmission-Based Precautions and Disposition of Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19;
- Interim Guidance on Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19; and
- Strategies to Mitigate Staffing Shortages.
FAQs on Federal Testing and Treatment Reporting
In an April 10 letter to hospital administrators, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar responded to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a March 29 letter requesting daily reporting to the federal government of testing, capacity, supplies, utilization, and patient flow.
Hospitals may be relieved from reporting daily data directly to the federal government if they receive a written release from the state attesting that the state will collect data from hospitals and take over federal reporting requirements. To provide a release to hospitals, a Federal Emergency Management Agency regional administrator must certify that the state has an established, functioning method of reporting data to the federal government.
The FAQ document also clarifies requirements for submitting:
- capacity and utilization data;
- in-house laboratory testing data; and
- commercial laboratory testing data.
Administrators experiencing technical issues should contact Protect-ServiceDesk@hhs.gov.
The National Healthcare Safety Network on April 14 at 2 pm ET will host a streaming training to provide information specific to the COVID-19 Healthcare Worker Staffing and Supply pathways for data submission. For questions, contact NHSNTrain@cdc.gov.
CMS Expands Provider Flexibility
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on April 9 issued blanket section 1135 and 1812(f) waivers, retroactive to March 1. Building on previously issued workplace flexibilities, these waivers expand the scope of practice for health care providers.
Physicians may care for patients at rural hospitals across state lines using phone, radio, or online communication, and certified nurse practitioners may perform select medical examinations on medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities. Additionally, occupational therapists from home health agencies may perform initial assessments of homebound patients, and hospice nurses no longer are required to participate in hospice aid in-service training tasks.
The agency also is waiving requirements that hospitals designate in writing the personnel qualified to perform respiratory care procedures and the amount of supervision required.
Agencies Warn Of COVID-19 Scams
CMS Administrator Seema Verma in an April 6 blog warned Medicare beneficiaries to stay vigilant of scammers who might use the COVID-19 pandemic to steal their Medicare numbers, banking information, and personal data. Verma stressed that the agency never will ask for or “verify” a Medicare number over the phone, or call individuals to enroll in a Medicare program over the phone unless the individual called CMS first. Medicare fraud can be reported at 1.800.MEDICARE (1.800.633.4227) or online.
The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have issued warning letters to three companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products:
- Gaia’s Whole Healing Essentials LLC, which sells unapproved, misbranded colloidal silver products advertised as building immunity against COVID-19;
- Homeomart Indibuy, which offers unapproved homeopathic drug products with misleading claims that they treat and prevent COVID-19; and
- Health Mastery Systems DBA Pure Plant Essentials, which sells essential oils with misleading claims that the products safely treat and prevent COVID-19.
In response to COVID-19 scams, the Government Accountability Office encourages the public to report fraud, waste, and abuse on the FraudNet website. Individuals also can report allegations via email to email@example.com or by calling 1.800.424.5454.
Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the outbreak.
Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.