Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Department of Agriculture Adopts Temporary FDA Food Labeling Policy, New Products Debut in Grocers, Restaurant Delivery

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reviewed the Food and Drug Administration’s temporary policy regarding nutrition labeling during the COVID-19 public health crisis, and provided clarity behind new items for sale in Pennsylvania’s grocery stores and restaurants.

This temporary policy by the FDA allows restaurants to sell ingredients and bulk prepared foods direct to consumers, and allows food manufacturers to distribute foods intended for restaurant-use to grocery stores for purchase by consumers. This means grocery shoppers may see industrial sized bags of soup or other prepared items, with non-traditional nutrition information labels. Eggs by the flat, instead of by the dozen, have also been approved by a separate guidance document from the FDA. This temporary flexibility also allows restaurants to sell meal kits or raw ingredients in addition to their regular menu of takeout items.

Similar to recognizing a need for decreased food labeling requirements, the FDA issued guidance offering restaurants and retail food establishments flexibility for menu labeling. Under normal circumstances, restaurants and retail food establishments that are a part of a chain of 20 or more locations must provide nutrition information (calorie declarations) for standard menu items. Recognizing that business practices have been required to change as a result of COVID-19 – including modified menus, printed takeout menus, or online portals – the FDA will not object to restaurants that do not meet requirements.

CRS Report on Health Care Provisions in Coronavirus Response Act

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides an overview of the healthcare-related provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focuses on coverage of COVID-19 testing and related items for individuals covered by Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, Veterans healthcare, the IHS, and most private plans. The report also includes a discussion of changes to Medicare coverage of telehealth services.

Comments Requested: Perspectives on Pain and Pain Management

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asks the public to provide feedback on pain and pain management, including but not limited to:  the benefits and harms of opioid use, from patients with acute or chronic pain, patients’ family members and/or caregivers, and health care providers who care for patients with pain or conditions that can complicate pain management (e.g., opioid use disorder or overdose).  CDC will use these comments to inform its understanding of stakeholders’ values and preferences related to pain and pain management options.

Comments are due on June 16, 2020 and can be submitted here.

Comments Requested: CDC Data Collection for COVID-19 Response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seeks comments from the public on two modules being added to the National Healthcare Safety Network, which is used to track healthcare-associated infections.  The new modules will be used to capture the daily, aggregate impact of COVID-19 facilities and to monitor medical capacity to respond at local, state, and national levels.

Comments are due on June 16, 2020 and can be submitted here.

HHS Launches New COVID-19 Workforce Toolkit

On April 22, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) released a new toolkit to help state and local healthcare decision makers maximize workforce flexibilities when confronting COVID-19 in their communities. The toolkit contains a number of “Resource Collections” on topics that have been of particular interest to rural providers including scope of practice expansions, licensure, EMS resources, and volunteer workforce needs, among other workforce and training resources.

HHS Launches COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), launched a new COVID-19 Uninsured Program Portal, allowing health care providers who have conducted COVID-19 testing or provided treatment for uninsured COVID-19 individuals on or after February 4, 2020 to submit claims for reimbursement. Providers can access the portal at

Rural Development Community Facilities and Distance Learning Resources

Rural Development (RD) provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas.

Select upcoming RD deadlines: