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Oct. 19th COVID-19 Update

New COVID-19-related updates for providers of long-term/post-acute care (LTPAC) and senior services continue to be shared on a regular basis by both state and federal authorities. The latest developments are discussed 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 Oct. 18th, 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

LeadingAge NY Provides Clarification on HERO Act

Members have understandably been confused about the HERO Act, which types of providers it applies to, and what needs to be done at this juncture to implement. This article seeks to clarify what you should be focused on at this moment.

Influenza Vaccination Reporting in NYSIIS Returns to Protocols Prior to COVID-19

Health care providers are no longer required to report influenza vaccinations in the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS) within a 24-hour period, as previously required. This reporting requirement ended in late June 2021 with the expiration of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders (EOs). However, providers must still report COVID-19 vaccinations within a 24-hour timeframe. Click here for more information.

Additional Vaccine Boosters Moving Through Authorization Process

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel unanimously endorsed both the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines last week. This week, the FDA will authorize their use, and then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to consider them. It will be up to the CDC to authorize and make recommendations for their use. Click here for more information.

Federal Public Health Emergency Extended for Additional 90 Days

On Oct. 15th, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed the federal public health emergency (PHE) declaration for an additional 90 days, effective Oct. 18th. Although the Biden administration told governors early in the year that it expects that the emergency will remain in place until the end of 2021 and that 60 days advance notice would be provided if the decision were made to end it sooner, continuation of the emergency requires a formal renewal every 90 days. Unless specifically rescinded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), flexibilities related to blanket 1135 and other federal waivers, including the 3-day hospital stay and authorization for temporary nurse aides, will continue until the expiration of the federal PHE. The renewal document is available here.

PRF Application Deadline Quickly Approaching

Providers are reminded to submit their completed Provider Relief Funding (PRF) applications prior to the deadline of Tues., Oct. 26th at 11:59 p.m. ET. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the division of HHS that administers the PRF, began accepting applications for the next round of PRF funding on Sept. 29th. All applications must go through a number of validation checks before financial information is submitted, so providers are strongly encouraged to begin their applications as soon as possible to meet the Oct. 26th deadline. Click here for more information.

Nursing Home and Adult Care Facility (ACF)/Assisted Living Updates

Urge the Governor to Reduce HERDS Reporting Requirements

LeadingAge NY has updated its advocacy letter calling on Governor Hochul to reduce the volume and frequency of COVID-19-related Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) reporting for nursing homes and ACFs. Click here to contact the Governor.

Nursing Home Routine Testing and Visitation Guidance

Routine testing of unvaccinated staff and indoor visitation in nursing homes is affected by the level of COVID-19 transmission in the community or COVID-19 positivity rate. Based on CMS guidance, testing frequency of unvaccinated staff is determined by community transmission level. Levels of COVID-19 community transmission are available on the CDC COVID-19 Integrated County View site, and the seven-day county transmission rate document compiled by LeadingAge NY is available here.

As of Oct. 18th, all New York State counties are at either a substantial or high transmission level, requiring twice-weekly testing. Moderate transmission rates require weekly staff testing, and low rates have no testing requirement. Click here for more information.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) and Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)/Managed Long Term Care (MLTC) Updates

Staffing Shortages Continue for Home Care and MLTC Plans Following Oct. 7th Vaccination Deadline

LeadingAge NY has been polling members for details on their staffing and service shortages and is finding mixed experiences both upstate and downstate. Many members have adapted to the staff losses they are experiencing. Others are seeing significant aide, nurse, and therapist losses; member cases still in need of staffing; a loss of cases requesting shorter and fewer shifts; and a shift in some areas of patients to Consumer Directed care rather than traditional home care services. Click here for more information, including contact information for the Department of Health’s (DOH) Surge and Flex Operations Center and a DOH-provided list of staffing vendors for members encountering overpriced staffing charges.

New CHHA and LHCSA HERDS Changes Issued

Members should note that certified home health agencies (CHHAs), hospices, and licensed home care services agencies (LHCSAs) have new HERDS surveys that reflect questions relating to staffing shortages, census and patient care, staff terminations, and flexibilities provided by EO 4, issued by Governor Hochul on Sept. 27th.

These changes have already been made to the CHHA and hospice HERDS. Similar changes will be implemented soon for LHCSAs. The HERDS survey is available for review here.