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Multiple research studies indicate the efficacy of mask-wearing to protect against the spread of COVID-19. Mask-wearing also has been called altruistic, a way to increase our freedoms, and a simple kindness. Today, Governor Tom Wolf’s call to wear masks has been endorsed by Pennsylvania businesses that see mask-wearing as vital to protecting customers, employees, communities and their bottom lines.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine made mask-wearing a requirement of businesses with in-person operations via the secretary’s order that grants her this authority granted by law.
The governor and secretary of Health’s business guidance centered around reopening includes the mask-wearing requirement. The guidance states that businesses must “Require all customers to wear masks while on the premises. Businesses that provide medication, medical supplies or groceries must provide an alternate, no contact, means of delivering goods for customers who cannot wear a mask. However, individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including children under the age of 2 years per CDC guidance) may enter the premises and are not required to provide documentation of such medical condition.”
USDA’s Farm Service Agency will now accept applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) through an online portal, expanding the options available to producers to apply for this program, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic. FSA is also leveraging commercial document storage and e-signature solutions to enable producers to work with local service center staff to complete their applications from home.
Through the portal, producers with secure USDA login credentials—known as eAuthentication—can certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center. Producers who do not have an eAuthentication account can learn more and begin the enrollment process at farmers.gov/sign-in. Currently, the digital application is only available to sole proprietors or single-member business entities.
USDA has several other options for producers to complete and submit their CFAP applications. These include:
- Downloading the AD-3114 application form from farmers.gov/cfap and manually completing the form to submit to the local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to an office drop box. In some limited cases, the office may be open for in-person business by appointment. Visit farmers.gov/coronavirus/service-center-status to check the status of your local office.
- Completing the application form using our CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator found at farmers.gov/cfap. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, and then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center.
As states continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including economic recovery efforts, Governor Tom Wolf and a bipartisan coalition of 11 governors today sent a letter urging the president and Congressional leaders to make critical investments to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband internet connectivity, which they say is critical infrastructure that’s vitally important to our economic future and national security.
“An investment in broadband internet connectivity is an investment in our commonwealth’s future and prosperity. The critical need for high-speed internet has become clear in light of our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as more families work and learn from home, businesses operate online services and patients access medical care through telehealth,” Gov. Wolf said. “Now, as Pennsylvania focuses on our economic recovery, it’s critical that broadband internet access becomes a reality for every community, and especially our rural areas.
“It’s clear that this is more than a Pennsylvania issue – the digital divide exists in communities across the country,” Gov. Wolf said. “It’s in everyone’s best interest, especially as technology continues to evolve and advance, that we make a significant infrastructural investment.”
Some 18 million Americans, including nearly a million Pennsylvanians, lack access to broadband internet connectivity. Businesses and families without adequate access are left behind, and the consequences are staggering from an economic, health, education, and social standpoint, the governors said. A significant investment in broadband connectivity, the governors added, will unleash economic potential, promote stable job growth that’s resilient in times like these, and ensure all businesses and families can participate in the digital economy.
Governor Wolf has made access to high-speed internet a top priority. He led this bipartisan call to address the issue following a discussion with Land O’Lakes President and CEO Beth Ford. The farmer owned cooperative is working with organizations across industries including agriculture, healthcare, finance, and tech to address connectivity.
“We commend Governor Wolf and his fellow leaders for making this bipartisan call to action and for recognizing that our country simply cannot afford to allow the digital divide to widen,” Ford said. “Land O’Lakes, and many of our partners who understand the economic, educational and quality of life impacts that digital technology can have for individuals and for communities, look forward to working together with these governors and other policy makers as we advocate for high-speed internet access to become a reality for all Americans.”
Broadband internet access is also a key component of Restore Pennsylvania, a statewide plan to aggressively address the commonwealth’s vital infrastructure needs, including installation of infrastructure to bring high speed internet to every corner of the commonwealth. Funded through a commonsense severance tax, Restore Pennsylvania is the only plan that will help make Pennsylvania a leader in the 21st century.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Office of Regional Operations (ORO) recognizes National HIV Testing Day on June 27 in Region 3. This year’s Testing Day theme is “Knowing,” which highlights the importance of knowing your HIV status, knowing where you can get tested, and knowing how you can connect to care and treatment services if you test positive. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV, but one in seven people with HIV are unaware they have it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to access traditional places where HIV testing is provided, including health centers and Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program medical sites, HIV screening continues to be essential to reducing new HIV infections and to improving health outcomes for people with HIV. HRSA encourages promoting access to and continuity of care in a safe way to support social distancing during the COVID-19 public health emergency. One example of a safe way to encourage HIV testing during this time is through self-testing. The CDC recently published guidance about HIV self-testing programs using an FDA-approved home test as a way to supplement ongoing HIV prevention efforts.
In addition, this Testing Day HRSA recognizes there is an unprecedented opportunity to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through the Administration’s “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America” initiative. This is a 10-year plan which began in FY 2020 to achieve the goal of reducing new HIV infections to less than 3,000 per year by 2030. Through HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and Health Center Program, the agency continues to play a leading role in helping diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond to end the HIV epidemic.
Pam Kania, HRSA Regional Administrator, ORO Region 3, R3@hrsa.gov
For those intending to research, plan, implement, evaluate, or otherwise consider community paramedicine (CP) systems, this guide from the National Rural Health Resource Center includes a compilation of cited references that describe the impact of previously implemented CP initiatives. Read more here.
On Monday, June 22, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released preliminary data on COVID-19 derived from Medicare claims. Between January 1 and May 16, 2020, over 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with COVID-19, and nearly 110,000 of those were hospitalized. The snapshot breaks down COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for Medicare beneficiaries by state; race/ethnicity; dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid; age; gender; and urban/rural areas. Read more here.
Researchers at the WWAMI Rural Health Research Center studied county-level data to calculate provider-to-population ratios of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants and then compared those ratios between metropolitan, micropolitan, and non-core counties. Nationally, the provider-to-population ratio of family physicians is slightly higher in rural than urban areas, but the overall per capita supply of primary care providers remains substantially lower in rural areas than urban areas. Read more here.
The Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ) examines the costs of potentially preventable hospitalizations, with a comparison of metropolitan and rural hospitals. The report is part of AHRQs Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a collection of data and analyzation tools to enable research on a broad range of health policy issues. Read more here.