Rural Health Information Hub Latest News

USDA Implements Immediate Measures to Help Rural Residents, Businesses and Communities Affected by COVID-19

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2020 – USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.

View the full stakeholder announcement.

Pennsylvania Governor: Department of Health Reaches COVID-19 Testing Goal in May, Continues to Increase Testing in Several Regions

Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Pennsylvania Department of Health reached its testing goals in May with more than 283,000 COVID-19 diagnostic test results reported to the department. The department achieved its 2 percent testing goal for the month by more than 11 percent.

In addition, beginning Friday, June 5, various Walmart and Quest Diagnostics drive-thru testing locations across the state will provide testing for residents living in areas with fewer testing sites. No COVID-19 testing will take place inside Walmart stores or Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Centers.

“We appreciate the hard work done by health systems, pharmacies, FQHCs, medical clinics and other entities that are providing testing for COVID-19 across Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “This goal is just one step in ramping up the state’s testing capabilities and it demonstrates the tremendous progress made to ensure all Pennsylvanians who need to be tested are.”

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said, “When we established our testing strategy, we wanted testing to be accessible, available and adaptable and we are working to meet that challenge. Anyone who believes they have symptoms of COVID-19 can get tested today in Pennsylvania.”

A soft launch of five drive-thru testing sites will begin on June 5. These sites will be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM to test up to 50 registered patients. Registration is required one day in advance. The testing sites that will open on Wednesday include:

  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 63 Perkins Rd, Clarion, PA
  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 2711 Elm Street, Erie, PA
  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 1015 N Loyalsock Ave, Montoursville, PA
  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 100 Supercenter Drive, Clearfield, PA
  • Walmart Supercenter parking lot, 1275 N Hermitage Rd, Hermitage, PA

Additional testing sites will be announced in upcoming days and will be listed on the department’s website.

“After testing, you are required to return home and self-isolate,” Dr. Levine said. “If your symptoms worsen while you are waiting for your test results, talk to your doctor. If you experience a medical emergency, please seek immediate care.”

The Department of Health is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to process the tests. At this time, the tests are being provided at no cost to Pennsylvanians. Patients will create an account on Quest’s patient portal and answer some eligibility questions to determine if they meet the criteria to get tested. The site will be available for appointment scheduling at 6:00 PM this evening.

If the patient is eligible, they will be notified of a testing location within a 50-mile radius of them with available appointment times. The patient will schedule an appointment time, print a voucher and bring the voucher to the location with them to their appointment. Patients will receive an email with their test results within 24 to 48 hours, and physicians will call any patient who has a positive test result.

Through the work of a number of entities, testing is accessible for Pennsylvanians. As entities such as Rite Aid, CVS, Patient First and Walmart offer testing regardless of symptoms, more Pennsylvanians can get tested close to home. Adding these locations to those already offered by hospitals, health systems, FQHCs, health clinics and other locations has expanded the testing network in the state.

With increased testing supplies through state and federal partners and Pennsylvania businesses, testing has become more available in Pennsylvania. This has helped ensure that the swabs and medium are available to conduct testing, and to also roll out universal testing at long-term care facilities.

The department’s testing plan remains adaptable. This includes ensuring everyone in a long-term care facility can be tested, providing all counties with at least one testing location, and other efforts based on the latest data and science surrounding COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Repeating shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

For the latest information for individuals, families, businesses and schools, visit “Responding to COVID-19” on

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out for a life-sustaining reason, please wear a mask.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

All Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to sign up for AlertPA, a text notification system for health, weather, and other important alerts like COVID-19 updates from commonwealth agencies. Residents can sign up online at

MEDIA CONTACT:  Lyndsay Kensinger, or  Nate Wardle, Health, 717-787-1783 or

New Brief: Engaging Critical Access Hospitals in Addressing Rural Substance Use

Substance use is a significant public health issue in rural communities. Despite this fact, substance use treatment services are limited in rural areas and residents suffer from significant barriers to care. Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), frequently the hubs of local systems of care, can play an important role in addressing substance use disorders. To develop a coordinated response to community substance use issues, CAHs must identify and prioritize local needs, mobilize local resources and partnerships, build local capacity, and screen for substance use among their patients. These activities provide a foundation upon which CAHs and their community partners can address identified local needs by selecting and implementing initiatives to minimize the onset of substance use and related harms (prevention), treat substance use disorders, and help individuals reclaim their lives (recovery).

This brief makes the case for why CAHs should address substance use, provides a framework to support CAHs in doing so, describes examples of substance use activities undertaken by CAHs to substantiate the framework, and identifies resources that can be used by State Flex Programs to support CAHs in addressing this important public and population health problem.

The report may accessed here or on the Flex Monitoring Team website.

In Case You Missed It: Health Affairs Blog by CMS Administrator Seema Verma – New CMS Payment Model Flexibilities For COVID-19

New CMS Payment Model Flexibilities For COVID-19

The coronavirus has taken a devastating toll on Americans across the country, in lives lost and economic impacts. The health care system has been impacted along with many other aspects of American life. Providers have been greatly affected as they strive to do the right thing by delaying elective surgeries; they have faced disruption in critical revenue streams, and simultaneously experienced increased costs for Personal Protective Equipment. That’s why President Trump signed legislation providing $175 billion for the health care system, in addition to $100 billion in advance and accelerated payments to Medicare providers.

That’s why, in response to COVID-19, CMS is providing new flexibilities and adjustments to current and future CMMI models to address the emergency. We’re releasing a chart today that outlines the models and the new changes.

To read the full Health Affairs blog, go to:

JUST RELEASED: Interim COVID-19 Guidance for Agricultural Workers and Employers

The CDC and the Department of Labor jointly developed and released new interim COVID-19 guidance for agricultural workers and employers.  It is available at

This guidance provides a template of action to protect agriculture workers from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).  Agricultural employers can adapt these recommendations to protect workers at their particular work sites or in specific work operations.

Questions concerning this guidance may be directed to



Pennsylvania Governor Signs Executive Order Extending Mail Ballot Deadline in Six Counties to June 9

Amid a surge in mail-in ballots, the COVID-19 public health emergency and civil disturbances in six counties, Governor Tom Wolf today signed an executive order extending the deadline for county election offices in Allegheny, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties to receive absentee or mail-in ballots by mail to 5 p.m. June 9, 2020. The ballot must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The deadline to hand deliver absentee or mail-in ballots remains 8 p.m. June 2, 2020.

The six counties included in today’s executive order are part of a disaster emergency declaration the governor signed Saturday in response to civil unrest to provide all necessary assistance to the municipalities.

While the vast majority of counties have been able to process their applications and mail their ballots, the volume of applications in the six counties caused by the COVID-19 crisis combined with the recent civil disturbance make it necessary to extend the deadline for the counties to receive completed civilian absentee and mail-in ballots. Curfews, travel restrictions and other unforeseen circumstances have made returning ballots more difficult in these counties. The extension will help to ensure that voters in those counties are not disenfranchised through no fault of their own.

Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association Remind Pennsylvania Pet Owners to Maintain Up-to-Date Rabies Vaccinations

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association president Dr. Kate Harnish today reminded Pennsylvanians of the importance of getting back on track with regularly scheduled pet vaccinations and boosters. Maintaining up-to-date vaccines is not only important for the health and well-being of cats and dogs, but for the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.

By Pennsylvania law, all cats and dogs three months of age and older are required to have current rabies vaccinations. Even pets that are indoors only are required to be vaccinated. Each year, dog wardens visit neighborhoods across Pennsylvania to conduct dog license and rabies compliance checks. Owners of pets without current rabies vaccines can face fines of up to $300.

Rabies is a virus of the central nervous system that can affect any mammal, it is widespread throughout Pennsylvania. It is of great public health concern because it can be transmitted to humans and is nearly 100 percent fatal without post-exposure treatment. Since 2000, between 350 and 500 animals in Pennsylvania annually are confirmed in a laboratory to have rabies. The most commonly affected animals are raccoons, bats, skunks, and cats. The last diagnosed human case of rabies in Pennsylvania was in 1984. The best way to prevent the spread of rabies and protect human health is vaccination of domestic mammals.

For more about Rabies in Pennsylvania visit For a current map of rabies cases in Pennsylvania, visit