Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) Extends Query Fee Waiver

The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is extending the query fee waiver for one-time queries, continuous queries, and continuous query renewals retroactive from June 1 through September 30. The NPDB previously offered the waiver through May 31. The waiver supports efforts to mobilize and deploy health professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing costs and expediting credentialing, hiring, privileging, and licensing processes.

For updated information about the waiver, visit the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information page on the NPDB website.

For technical assistance, contact the NPDB Customer Service Center.

Medicaid/CHIP Provider Relief Fund Payment Forms and Guidance Announced

HHS, through the Provider Relief Fund, expects to distribute $15 billion to eligible Medicaid and CHIP providers.

Providers must submit their data by July 20.

Before applying through the Enhanced Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal applicants can watch a webinar about the application process for Medicaid/CHIP providers (registration required).

An additional webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, July 8 at 4:00 pm EDT. Register today.

Pennsylvania Department of Community Economic Development Releases Neighborhood Assistance Program Guidelines

The COVID-19 Pandemic has had an immense, unprecedented impact on the people and economy of Pennsylvania. Businesses have closed, people have lost their jobs, and life in general has been severely disrupted. Within the most vulnerable communities of Pennsylvania the impact of this pandemic has been exacerbated by the ongoing conditions of social injustice, poverty, and neglect. Due to the effects of this situation on the people and economy of Pennsylvania there will be a special emphasis on and priority given to projects that seek to address critical issues related to the pandemic and its aftermath for program year 2020-2021. Within these guidelines there are activities highlighted as being priorities for COVID-19 Pandemic and Social Justice Issues. While some of these priorities are based on individual services many of them are more community focused as it will take the efforts of entire communities to fully recover from this historical event.

Applicants who are planning to submit applications that address these critical needs are encouraged to do so when the NAP application is opened. The Department reserves the right to determine whether a project qualifies as a priority under these special circumstances. Those projects deemed not to be a priority will be considered after all other priority projects have been awarded if there are any tax credits remaining.

Please follow the link for more information.

Governor Urges Pennsylvanians to Avoid Large Gatherings, Wear Masks Over Holiday Weekend

As the holiday weekend approaches, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration is reminding Pennsylvanians to avoid large gatherings and to wear masks around other people to help prevent further spread of COVID-19. On July 1, Governor Tom Wolf announced an order, signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Levine, requiring masks to be worn whenever anyone leaves home.

On July 3, Lebanon County, the remaining county still in yellow, will join the green phase with the rest of the state. The green phase prohibits large gatherings of more than 250 people. The newly expanded mask-wearing order also requires mask-wearing in any public space, not just in businesses.

If you have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that you stay at home for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. If you travel to the following states, you will need to quarantine for 14 days upon return:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

Pennsylvanians are encouraged to continue to practice social distancing and other preventive measures, including washing your hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning surfaces often, wearing a mask and staying home if you are sick to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

New COVID-19 Tracking Tools Reveal County, State, & Global Trends

The COVID-19 Map Series is a searchable data base offering data of confirmed COVID-19 cases, county trends, number of days since last new case, recent outbreaks, mortality rates, active cases per 100,000 people, deaths per 100,000 people, and more in each of the nation’s counties. The data is collected by Johns Hopkins University CSSE, and also appears in their US Cases by County Dashboard. Due to frequent changes, it is advised that users refresh their browsers often when viewing the map. As of today, July 2nd, at 10:30 am (ET), there were 110,639 cases in 418 Appalachian counties.

For more information about COVID-19 trends, visit the Country Level Trends Story Map for global data and check out the full methodology for details.

Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC) Applications Open through July 29

The U.S. Department of Labor has partnered with ARC to develop the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities (WORC). This $29.2 million initiative focuses on implementing innovative approaches and providing enhanced training and support to dislocated workers, new entrants in the workforce, incumbent workers, and individuals affected by substance use disorder returning to work. Successful awards will support workforce development activities that prepare eligible participants for good jobs in high-demand occupations aligned with a state, regional, or community economic development strategy.

As part of this partnership, ARC has hosted a series of short technical assistance webinars on how to prepare competitive applications. Communities across Appalachia, especially those underserved by other resources, are encouraged to apply. Applications must be submitted by 4:00 PM (ET) July 29, 2020.

The funding announcement can be found on the website.

New Report Highlights Economic Potential of Region’s Oil & Gas Industries

The Department of Energy (DoE) released a new report titled, The Appalachian Energy and Petrochemical Renaissance: An Examination of Economic Progress and Opportunities. Drawing on ARC data, research, and investment outcomes, the report examines energy resources found in Appalachia, the opportunities/challenges that are associated with these industries, and the steps that can be taken to increase the positive economic impact from these opportunities in parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.

The report cites several ARC reports relevant to the Region’s shale and gas industry including the Status of the Appalachian Development Highway System as of September 30, 2018, the Industrial Make-Up of the Appalachian Region and An Economic Analysis of the Appalachian Coal Industry Ecosystem. The report also highlights ARC investments in the Tristate Energy and Advanced Manufacturing (TEAM) Consortium, a network of nearly 50 community colleges and educational institutions, industry representation, local economic development leaders, and investment partners from across Marcellus-Utica region providing credentialed education and training for jobs in Appalachia’s energy and manufacturing sectors as an example of successful workforce development initiatives that could be brought to scale.

“Appalachian energy resources are among the most plentiful in the world, and the region stands poised to continue its growth as an energy producer and an important contributor to the world petrochemical market,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “The critical policy priorities and strategic investments outlined in this report will be important to the continued energy independence of our nation and the economic development of the Appalachian Region.”

Read the full details here.

Center for Rural Pennsylvania: Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors Appoints Kyle C. Kopko Director

On behalf of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, Center Chairman Senator Gene Yaw announced that Kyle C. Kopko, Ph.D. has been appointed as the Center’s new director. Dr. Kopko succeeds Barry L. Denk, who is retiring from the Center at the end of July after 28 years of service.

“The board is delighted to welcome Dr. Kopko to the Center,” Sen. Yaw said. “The board knew immediately that Dr. Kopko’s strong research and analytical background and his focused leadership capabilities would continue to drive the Center forward in its mission to promote and sustain the vitality of Pennsylvania’s rural and small communities.”

Dr. Kopko most recently served as Associate Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Planning, and Associate Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College. He earned his Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University in 2010. Dr. Kopko has authored or co-authored more than 30 scholarly publications, including two university press books, and he regularly speaks on a wide range of policy and political topics. His research has also received national and international media attention in numerous outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and Fox News Channel.

Dr. Kopko said: “I am honored to join the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. The Center’s outstanding reputation is the result of the hard work of the Center’s Board of Directors and staff. I am especially grateful for Barry Denk’s years of service to the Center. Under Barry’s leadership, the Center established itself as the preeminent source of information and data on rural communities in Pennsylvania. I look forward to working with the Center’s board and staff, and serving the millions of people who live and work in rural Pennsylvania.”

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative agency that serves as a resource for rural policy within the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The Center works with the legislature, educators, state and federal executive branch agencies, and national, statewide, regional and local organizations to maximize resources and strategies that can better serve Pennsylvania’s nearly 3.4 million rural residents.

Contact: Christine Caldara Piatos, 717-787-9555,

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Signs Expanded Mask-Wearing Order

Expanding on the business safety order signed by Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine in April that requires the wearing of masks in businesses, Governor Tom Wolf today announced a new order signed by Dr. Levine that takes the mask-wearing directive one step further.

With this order, signed under Dr. Levine’s authority under the Disease Prevention and Control Act, masks must be worn whenever anyone leaves home. The order takes effect immediately.

The order outlines the situations when a mask must be worn and includes limited exceptions to the face-covering requirement.

Each of the state’s mitigation efforts has helped to slow the spread of COVID-19, kept our health care systems from being overwhelmed, and allowed for Gov. Wolf’s measured, phased reopening to proceed. But, with nearly every county is the green phase of reopening, complacency cannot be the norm.

More and more health experts have called for mask wearing, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said during a June 30 Senate hearing on COVID-19, “Americans who don’t wear masks may ‘propagate the further spread of infection.’”

The mask-wearing order will be sent to state and local officials, law enforcement and others tasked with education about the order for those not in compliance.

Pennsylvania Restaurants and Bars Required to Protect Workers and Patrons During COVID-19

Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration reminded Pennsylvanians of the requirements put in place for restaurants and bars to protect the health and safety of workers and patrons from COVID-19.

Under the governor’s Process to Reopen Pennsylvania, in the green phase of the state’s reopening plan restaurants and bars may open at 50 percent occupancy.

Pennsylvania’s restaurant industry guidance was developed in coordination with the Restaurant and Lodging Association. Pursuant to the guidance, all businesses and employees in the restaurant and retail food service industry are required to do the following:

  • Require all customers to wear masks while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling throughout the restaurant or retail food service business. Face coverings may be removed while seated.
  • Provide at least six feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back. If tables or other seating are not movable, seat parties at least six feet apart.
  • Where possible, stagger work stations to avoid employees standing next to each other. Where six feet of separation is not possible, consider spacing options that include other mitigation efforts with increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Establish a limit for the number of employees in shared spaces, including break rooms, and offices to maintain at least a six-foot distance.
  • Don’t use shared tables among multiple parties unless the seats can be arranged to maintain six feet of distance between parties.
  • Train all employees on the importance and expectation of increased frequency of handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, and provide clear instructions to avoid touching hands to face.
  • Assign employee(s) to monitor and clean high touch areas frequently while in operation.
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signage on walls to ensure that customers remain at least six feet apart in lines or waiting for seating or in line for the restroom.

All businesses must follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Health guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

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

As the Wolf administration closely monitors public health indicators, strict compliance with the guidance is critical to prevent spread, and the need for more stringent restrictions.

The administration also supports local governments’ more stringent protections for dining establishments’ workers and customers, such as those actions taken this week by Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.

The Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (BLCE) will be conducting compliance checks at licensed facilities to ensure that the requirements of the guidance are observed. Failure to comply risks citation by the BLCE, a fine of up to $1,000, and possible suspension and/or revocation of the liquor license.