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June 21st COVID-19 Update

New updates pertaining to the COVID-19 emergency continue to be announced by both the state and federal government on a regular basis. The latest developments for providers of long-term/post-acute care (LTPAC) and senior services are reviewed below.

As a reminder, LeadingAge NY continues to convene weekly webinars on Mondays at 11 a.m. to address emerging questions on COVID-19. A recording of our most recent webinar, held on Tues., June 21st due to the observance of Juneteenth, is available here, and a list of the items shared by LeadingAge NY staff in the webinar chat can be accessed here. If you have questions for next week’s update or would like the access information, please contact Jeff Diamond.

Cross-Sector Updates

Excelsior Vaccination Passes to Expire

The Excelsior Pass is a free, voluntary platform that provides secure, digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results. Currently, all Excelsior Vaccination Passes retrieved after March 1st will expire on June 30th. For a Vaccination Pass option that does not expire, New Yorkers should retrieve an Excelsior Vaccination Pass Plus. As a secure, digital vaccination record, an Excelsior Vaccination Pass Plus does not expire. It also includes an individual’s booster/additional dose information. Click here for more information.

CDC Endorses ACIP Recommendation That All Children Aged 6 Months Through 5 Years Get COVID-19 Vaccine

On June 18th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age receive a COVID-19 vaccine, including children who have already had COVID-19.

Distribution of pediatric vaccinations for these younger children has begun. The Pfizer vaccine will cover children aged 6 months through 4 years, and the Moderna vaccine will cover children aged 6 months through 5 years. The Moderna vaccine is two doses spaced four weeks apart, while Pfizer is a three-dose series, with the first two shots spaced three weeks apart and the third shot given at least eight weeks later.

Phase 4 PRF: Not Over Yet

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has issued another round of Phase 4 Provider Relief Funding (PRF) totaling $427 million to 1,400 providers nationwide. These payments come as direct transfers with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and/or HRSA indicated as the payer. This was not the final Phase 4 distribution, as HRSA is still finishing its work processing applications. This means that another payment is anticipated in July. The HRSA webpage dedicated to the Phase 4 General Distribution, which links to the distribution methodology, is here. Providers who have not received payments in the past but have reason to believe that they may yet receive funding should make sure that they have established an Optum account to be able to receive the payment. Please contact LeadingAge NY if you think you are in that situation, or reach out to the Provider Support Line (866-569-3522). Members should also keep in mind that recipients of PRF funding in the first half of calendar year (CY) 2021 have until the end of June 2022 to use the relief dollars or allocate them appropriately to lost revenue.

Nursing Home Updates

CMS Issues New QSO on Staff Vaccination and How Surveyors Will Survey Against It

On June 14th, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued memorandum QSO 22-17-ALL updating how State Survey Agencies (SAs) will survey for compliance with COVID-19 staff vaccination. The QSO updates previously issued federal guidance that stated that all surveys would ensure compliance with staff vaccination. As of the date of issuance of QSO 22-17-ALL, SAs are only required to complete surveillance for compliance on initial surveys, recertification surveys, and complaint surveys alleging a specific complaint related to staff compliance with COVID-19 vaccination.

It is important to note that SAs do retain the authority to survey for compliance on any survey if they choose to, and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) does often go beyond the requirements in the guidance issued by the federal government.

Webinar on NHSN Weekly Vaccination Reporting

The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) is updating its surveillance definition of up to date with COVID-19 vaccines to match the CDC’s clinical considerations and up to date definition starting the week of June 27th (i.e., the start of a new quarter). This change does not impact the CDC clinical definition; it simply aligns the definition used in the COVID-19 Vaccination Modules in the Healthcare Personnel Safety, Dialysis, and Long-term Care Facility Components with the current CDC definition. A webinar on this change has been scheduled for Thurs., June 23rd from 2 to 3 p.m., with registration available here.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Updates

Approved Appendix K Changes Coming for NHTD/TBI Providers

LeadingAge NY members providing services under the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) programs should note that there are some significant changes coming to NHTD/TBI providers via Appendix K changes approved by CMS effective May 13th. CMS approved additional changes to the previously approved Appendix K. The approved Appendix K is effective from March 1, 2020 through six months after the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19.

A June 16th DOH webinar provided basic information about how to begin planning for these incentives so that providers will be able to take advantage of all available funding opportunities. Click here for more information.