Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

Swaying the “Movable Middle” to Vaccine Acceptance

Primary care providers (PCPs) can be key players in the movement to building confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine. Since last November, CVS Caremark has surveyed thousands of Americans about their intentions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, finding that 45 percent combined said that they definitely would, or definitely would not, get the vaccine, while 55 percent considered themselves to be in the “movable middle.” Donald Berwick, MD, MPP, former CMS administrator and founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, emphasized that “trust is everything… trust in science … trust in accumulated experience, and trust in the helpers.”

COVID-19 Brazil Variant on the Rise in U.S.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that cases of the COVID-19 variant first detected in Brazil are on the rise in the United States. According to the data released last Thursday, there are 434 reported cases of the P.1 variant across 28 jurisdictions. According to the CDC, this variant detected first in the United Kingdom is now the most dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. That variant spreads more easily and can cause more spikes in infections.

U.S. Suicide Rate Drops Contrary to Pandemic Predictions

The number of U.S. suicides fell nearly six percent last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data. Death certificates are still coming in and the count could rise. But officials expect a substantial decline will endure, despite worries that COVID-19 could lead to more suicides. It is hard to say exactly why suicide deaths dropped so much, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters, some experts suggested. Read more.

Axios: America Might Be Close to Hitting a Vaccine Wall

There are growing signs that parts of the country may be close to meeting demand for the coronavirus vaccine — well before the U.S. has reached herd immunity. For the last few months, the primary focus of the U.S. has been getting shots to everyone who wants them, as quickly as possible. Soon, that focus will abruptly shift to convincing holdouts to get vaccinated.

PA-HAN Update on Infection Prevention & Control for COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings

This HAN Update provides comprehensive information regarding infection prevention and control for COVID-19 in healthcare settings and replaces PA-HAN-524. Major additions and edits in this version (compared to HAN 524) include:

  • Edited language to emphasize that to be effective, facemasks and cloth face coverings must be well-fitting.
  • The addition of options for screening patients, visitors, and healthcare personnel (HCP) upon entry to the healthcare facility.
  • The recommendation to utilize universal use of eye protection for all patient care encounters now excludes facilities located in areas with minimal to no community transmission. Applicable definitions are provided at the end of the Update.
  • The addition of clarifying language to indicate that the prevention measures indicated for persons with COVID-19 are also indicated for persons on quarantine.
  • Respirators are recommended for care of persons with COVID-19. Language suggesting the use of facemasks if respirators are not available has been removed.

If you have questions about this guidance, please contact DOH at 1-877-PA- HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) or your local health department.

Pennie American Rescue Plan Act Additional Savings

Beginning today, Friday, April 16, Pennie’s Phase 1 of the American Rescue Plan Act takes effect. Current customers will be able to access the Advanced Premium Tax Credit (APTC) enhanced subsidies during this phase, as long as they actively resubmit their Pennie application. The second phase in Pennie’s implementation plan relates to re-running eligibility for current Pennie customers. Pennie will be automatically updating their plans with the enhanced subsidies and will implement these savings by no later than June. Pennie will be notifying their customers when these changes will be available  in their accounts, and what steps they need to take  to receive them, if necessary. For more information access these Pennie Job Aids. Here are the steps to update an account for someone already receiving APTC, applied for APTC but earned too much to qualify, and NOT eligible for unemployment.

  • Login to dashboard
  • Scroll down to Household Eligibility
  • Click link to edit application
  • Go through the application, verify all info is correct
  • Make all the attestations on the Sign & Submit Page (click all the check boxes)
  • Sign & Submit
  • Get updated eligibility

President Releases Outline of Discretionary Budget Request

On April 9, 2021, President Biden released his discretionary budget request. The request included a 16 percent increase for non-defense discretionary spending and a 23.5 percent increase in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The “skinny” budget outlined top-line numbers for federal agencies and did not include specific funding levels for programs like health centers. The entire budget will be introduced in May or June. Negotiations over the size and scope of Biden’s FY22 budget and other spending priorities continue. While Democrats look to reconciliation to pass major legislation, Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on April 12, 2021, to discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Lawmaker Proposes Legislation to Require County Health Departments

State Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster) plans to introduce legislation that would require counties to build local public health capacity, either by starting their own health departments or joining their neighbors to create regional ones. The idea is in its early stages, and the proposed bill has yet to be written. Rep. Sturla said he is floating the proposal now to give stakeholders a chance to respond and offer feedback. At present, only six of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have their own health department. There are four municipal health departments. Click here to learn more about the county and municipal health departments.

We’re in a Race between Variants and Vaccinations

Hesitancy is a growing concern for all of us in the race of the vaccines versus the COVID-19 variants. We need to maintain maximum acceleration of the vaccine rollout, particularly as we once again witness a growing case count and hospitalization rate. What strategies and tools has your health center found to be effective in convincing the “moveable middle?” Are more of your own health center staff choosing to be vaccinated? Let us know! Here are some resources you might find helpful: