Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

ARC EDA Program for Community COVID-19 Recovery Now Available

Acting Assistant Secretary Dana Gartzke and External Affairs Director Joel Frushone, of the Economic Development Agency (EDA) briefed ARC, the Delta Regional Authority and the Northern Border Regional Commission on the EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance program, a new grant program developed via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) program. This $1.5 billion initiative provides a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. While mostly available via a competitive process, support may also be available to LDDs, universities, revolving loan funds and other entities on a non-competitive basis.

“COVID-19 has accelerated economic changes. Just as you see it in the aftermath of natural disasters, rural, urban, small and large business, local government, all of us have been impacted by this virus and are still being impacted,” said Phil Paradice, Regional Director, EDA Atlanta Regional Office.

In order to be more responsive to businesses that are impacted by COVID-19, EDA leadership added staff in order to ensure applicants receive an initial response within 30 days after submitting a full application. The EDA has also taken steps to waive certain restrictions such as no interest loans, or waiving various leverage requirements, so revolving loan funding can drive needed and necessary capital into small businesses to help them survive.

For more information and resources please visit,

NIOSH Weekly News

As part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) efforts to keep stakeholders up to date on the CDC and NIOSH COVID-19 response, below is a summary of new information posted this week.

General Resources 

Resuming Business Toolkit
CDC has developed a toolkit to guide employers as they seek to resume normal or phased business operations. The toolkit is based on CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to COVID-19 and is designed to assist employers as they implement that guidance in their workplaces. These tools will help employers in planning, preparing, and responding to COVID-19.

Industry Specific Resources

Fact Sheet for Working in Office Buildings 
CDC published a new fact sheet for office building employers, building owners and managers, and building operations specialists. The fact sheet provides detailed steps to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients from COVID-19 exposure.

For More Information

For more information, please visit the COVID-19 webpage. To stay up to date on new developments, sign up for the COVID-19 newsletter.

CMS: New From Coverage to Care Resources on COVID-19

From Coverage to Care (C2C) has released two new resources focused on coronavirus and health coverage.

Click here to see the new resources:

C2C’s Coronavirus and Your Health Coverage: Get the Basics talks about how to protect yourself and your family along with an overview on updates from Medicare, the Marketplace, and other information for consumers looking for information on health coverage and staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Next, C2C has Stay Safe: Getting the Care You Need, at Home which focuses on how people can stay healthy within their home. This resource gives an overview of telehealth, managing ongoing health conditions, prescriptions, and other tips.

Want to receive updates on From Coverage to Care? Subscribe to the C2C listservTo learn more or download C2C resources, please visit or email

Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law Offers Webinar

The Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law is presenting a 60-minute webinar on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, which will synthesize some of the most important agricultural legal developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to assist producers and agricultural employers understand what they need to know. This is anticipated to be the first in a continuing series of webinars as conditions evolve.

The focus of the initial webinar will be on regulatory actions and the legal issues that may ultimately have to play out in courts across the country.

Highlights will include an overview of:

  • State-level actions by the Office of the Governor, PDA, DEP, PMMB, L&I, the Pennsylvania General Assembly and others that impact Pennsylvania agricultural operations in this crisis.
  • Federal actions by the Executive Branch (the White House, USDA, DOT and others) and the U.S. Congress.
  • The potential for invocation of the Defense Production Act re: food production and potential conflicts with state and local government authority.
  • Risks and protections surrounding claims of legal liability for COVID-19 transmission; what is the meaning of the various lawsuits covered by the media so far and what are the legal issues to be aware of going forward?

For more information on this webinar, please contact Brook Duer at or Jackie Schweichler at


Pennsylvania Governor Issues Guidance on Dining

As more counties move to yellow and green, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an order to elaborate on the reopening process for green phase counties and guidance on outdoor dining in yellow counties, dining in green counties, and professional sports in yellow counties.

Yellow Phase Outdoor Dining

Beginning June 5, restaurants and retail food service businesses located in counties designated as being in the yellow phase are permitted add dine-in service in outdoor seating areas so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance, including maximum occupancy limits:

  • Indoor areas, including bar areas, of restaurants and retail food service businesses must be closed to customers except for through-traffic. Non-bar seating in outdoor areas (i.e., tables or counter seats that do not line up to a bar or food service area) may be used for customer seating.
  • Customers being served must be seated at a table.

Prohibitions are also included. The following are not permitted:

  • Self-service food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, condiments, and drink stations.
  • Condiments on tables; these must be dispensed by employees upon the request of a customer.
  • Reusable menus.
  • Refilling food and beverage containers or allowing implements brought in by customers.

Green Phase Dining

Retail food service businesses, including restaurants, and bars located in counties designated as being in the green phase are permitted to provide take-out and delivery sales, as well as dine-in service in both indoor and outdoor seating areas, so long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance, including maximum occupancy limits:

  • Bar seating may be utilized if customers are seated and comply with physical distancing guideline of at least 6 feet or physical barriers between customers. Standing in a bar area will not be permitted.
  • A maximum of four customers that have a common relationship may sit together at the bar, while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines or barriers between other customers.

No business is required to conduct in-person operations and should not do so if unable to follow applicable guidance.

Dining guidance provides businesses and employees in the restaurant and retail food service industry with specific details on operations, including following the Guidance for Businesses Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency to Ensure the Safety and Health of Employees and the Public, available here, and provisions specific to mask-wearing, table-spacing, occupancy limits, sanitization, and implementation of a COVID-19 prevention plan, among other provisions to ensure worker and customer safety.

The dining guidance also notes that restaurants and retail food service businesses located in counties designated as being in the red phase are permitted to provide take-out and delivery sales only and may not allow the service or consumption of food or beverages on the premises.

Now Available: Fact Sheet for State and Local Governments – CMS Programs & Payment for Care in Hospital Alternate Care Sites

In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, state and local governments, hospitals, and others are developing alternate care sites to expand capacity and provide needed care to patients. This newly published fact sheet provides state and local governments developing alternate care sites with information on how to seek payments through CMS programs – Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – for acute inpatient and outpatient care furnished at the site.

Fact Sheet

Access to Medicare Part D Plans: A Comparison of Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

Mochamad Nataliansyah, MD, MPH; Abiodun Salako, PhD; Fred Ullrich, BA; and Keith Mueller, PhD

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 created the Medicare Part D outpatient prescription drug program allowing Medicare beneficiaries to add prescription drugs to their Medicare coverage. Within Medicare, beneficiaries can select either a stand-alone Part D Plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage plan that provides prescription drug coverage (MA-PD plan). Those plans offer an array of payment options and provided benefits. PDPs must offer the same design throughout the region in which they operate so minimal differences across types of counties were found. MA-PD plans were offered in lower numbers in noncore counties (compared to metropolitan and micropolitan counties), were found to have higher monthly premiums and were less likely to offer enhanced benefits. Of most concern, the brief shows that 10.6 percent of noncore counties have no MA-PD plans available, and 8.7 percent have only one plan offered.


Please click here to read the brief.

Vulnerable Communities and COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

The State of Health Equity in Pennsylvania (2019)” report states, “there are other areas in Pennsylvania where residents are more vulnerable. These residents’ health is at risk because they don’t have the same access to health care, education, jobs, clean environment and safety. Given Pennsylvania’s unique geography and population distribution, this reality affects many: urban and rural populations; racial and ethnic minorities; gender and sexual minorities; the young and old and many more.” This pandemic exacerbates poor health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Pennsylvania DOH is taking a proactive approach to safeguard residents.

Materials and resources are translated into various languages, briefings are done in Spanish and sign language. These include fact sheets, symptoms, what to do when sick, how to stop the spread, hand washing instructions and graphics. For a comprehensive approach, a COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team from staff and external stakeholders was formed. The goal is to develop a strategy to mitigate the potential of unintentional harm, loss of life, suffering and long-term multi-generational impact for vulnerable communities.

For support on health equity, more information and contact information can be found on the Office of Health Equity web page.

Double Jeopardy: COVID-19 and Behavioral Health Disparities

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplified social and economic factors that contribute to poor health outcomes. This SAMHSA brief looks at recent reports that indicate the pandemic disproportionately impacts communities of color and also highlights disparities in access to behavioral health care. Also read NIH Director Francis Collins’ blog post: COVID-19 Brings Health Disparities Research to the Forefront.

Which COVID-19 Lab Claims Require the NPI of the Ordering/Referring Professional?

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, CMS is relaxing billing requirements for a limited number of laboratory tests required for a COVID-19 diagnosis. Any healthcare professional authorized under state law may order these tests. Medicare will pay for these tests without a written order from the treating physician or other practitioner.

  • If an order is not written, you do not need to provide the National Provider Identifier (NPI) of the ordering or referring professional on the claim.
  • If an order is written, include the NPI of the ordering or referring professional, consistent with current billing guidelines.