Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

HHS Opens Provider Relief Fund Reporting Portal 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) long-awaited Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Reporting Portal is now open for providers who need to report on the use of funds in Reporting Period 1. Providers who are required to report during Reporting Period 1 have until September 30, 2021, to enter the Portal and submit their information. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has provided an extensive reporting guide, example excel data entry sheets, and a new edition of the FAQs.

Customizable COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Rural Communities

This toolkit from the HRSA-supported National Rural Health Resource Center helps rural community- and faith-based organizations, businesses, public health, schools, and health care organizations with internal and external COVID-19 vaccine communication materials. It provides easy access to customizable communication templates that include print ads, posters, brochures, social media posts and an online resource guide.

A New Guide on Universal Screening for Health-Related Social Needs

The Accountable Health Communities Health-Related Social Needs Screening Tool is being used to quickly identify health-related social needs, such as food insecurity, housing instability, and lack of access to transportation, among community-dwelling Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. A new user guide can help health care or social service providers connect beneficiaries with community resources.

Health Advisory – Circulation of Non-Influenza and Non-COVID-19 Respiratory Viruses

PA Health Advisory has been issued on the circulation of non-influenza and non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV). In summary:

  • Non-influenza, non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are circulating in the community at a higher rate than usual for this time of the year.
  • Healthcare providers should consider testing symptomatic patients with a respiratory virus panel, especially if influenza and COVID-19 tests are negative.
  • Report positive RSV tests to PA DOH through PA-NEDSS. Positive tests can be reported individually or in aggregate through the aggregate reporting module in PA-NEDSS. Hospitalizations and deaths should be reported individually in PA-NEDSS.
  • Report RSV outbreaks to DOH at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) or your local health department

Researchers Calculate More than 46,000 Kids Lost a Parent to COVID-19

COVID-19 has claimed more than 600,000 lives in the U.S., and researchers writing in the journal JAMA Pediatrics calculated that for every 13 deaths caused by the virus, one child under 18 has lost a parent. According to the researchers, that means that as of June 15:

  • More than 46,000 kids in the U.S. have lost a parent to COVID-19.
  • Three-quarters of the children are adolescents; the others are under age 10.
  • About 20 percent of the children who’ve lost parents are Black, though they make up 14 percent of the population.

These deaths have led to a shadow pandemic of bereavement that could have long-lasting effects. The loss of a parent in childhood has been linked to higher risk of substance use, mental health issues, poor performance in school, lower college attendance, lower employment and early death. Read more.

Kids Who Lost a Parent to COVID-19 May Qualify for Coverage

COVID-19 has claimed more than 600,000 lives in the U.S., and researchers estimate in JAMA Pediatrics that translates into more than 46,000 kids who have lost a parent. What surviving parents might not know is that children can receive survivor benefits when a parent dies if that parent worked long enough in a job that required payment of Social Security taxes. Only about half of the 2 million children in the U.S. who have lost a parent as of 2014 received the Social Security benefits to which they were entitled, according to a 2019 analysis by David Weaver of the Congressional Budget Office. Counselors said they find many families have no idea that children qualify for benefits when a working parent dies or don’t know how to sign up.

DOH Updates Vaccine Dashboard to Better Reflect Race, Ethnicity Data

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam announced the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard is now updated to better reflect the race and ethnicity of Pennsylvanians receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in the 66 counties outside of Philadelphia. The update to the dashboard can be found on the second page of the COVID-19 vaccine dashboard showing a county-specific view of demographics for people vaccinated by race, ethnicity, gender and age; it also includes a county ranking of the percent of residents in a given county that have received their vaccine. The demographic detail page was launched in late April. Until this week, the percentages displayed factored in the population of Philadelphia County. However, because Philadelphia County is designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a separate vaccine jurisdiction, the Department of Health’s data does not include information on people vaccinated in Philadelphia. The demographic information will help identify any equity gaps in vaccine distribution so that DOH can work closely with trusted local partners and stakeholders to create and share information for those who may be hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

Vaccine Survey Discontinued

The Department of Health (DOH) notified providers that providers will no longer be able to request vaccines through the Weekly Vaccine Request Survey. All providers who want vaccines will be required to place orders for Pfizer (450 or 1170), Moderna, or Janssen directly into PA SIIS. The DOH team will review those orders and approve them daily for processing. Once orders are approved, providers will receive a confirmation email from PA SIIS/VTrcks. As a part of this transition, routine allocation letters will no longer be sent out from the DOH resource account. Providers will be able to check the status of shipment by logging in directly to PA SIIS. Providers may place orders more than once per week based on need. If providers run into any problems while placing the order and need support, please email the DOH resource account at or call DOH at 717-787-5681.

Vaccination Decisions Have Consequences

A new analysis from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics finds that more than 46,000 children under 18 in the U.S. lost a parent to COVID-19. Although overall cases are down because of the many individuals who have been vaccinated, the pandemic is not over. The Delta variant that has devastated India and caused a significant rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the U.K. is on the rise in the U.S. Delta variant cases have doubled in the U.S. in the past two weeks, are surging in states with low vaccination rates, and now represent 20.6 percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases. Studies are showing that those of us who are vaccinated are protected from this more aggressive, highly contagious variant. If you’re not vaccinated, please know that the risk to you and those you love remains. The choice is yours, as are the consequences of not taking action to prevent what is now truly a preventable illness. If you don’t get vaccinated for you, please consider doing so for those you love and who love you.