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COVID-19 Response News Alert: CMS Issues Key Protective Mask Guidance for Healthcare Workers

March 10, 2020 — The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum to State Survey Agencies on the types of facemasks health care workers may use when in situations involving Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The guidance is part of an effort to ensure a maximum supply of facemasks and respirators are available to health care providers.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Pennsylvania Gov Wolf: Medicaid and CHIP Recipients’ COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Resources are Covered

Harrisburg, PA – March 11, 2020.  Governor Tom Wolf announced that the state’s Medicaid program, Medical Assistance (MA) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), will cover COVID-19 testing and treatment for recipients and is lifting some prior authorization requirements to ease access to necessary testing and treatment. There are no MA or CHIP copayments for laboratory tests for COVID-19. For those services that do have copayments, MA providers may not deny services if a beneficiary is unable to pay the copayment.

“We are prepared to mitigate COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth, and part of this mitigation includes ensuring that anyone who needs to be tested for COVID-19 can access the test,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “No Pennsylvanian should forego testing for any reason, if deemed medically necessary, including fear of what it might cost.”

The MA and CHIP programs will pay for COVID-19 testing when a health care practitioner determines it is needed, and prior authorization is not required. While there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, the MA and CHIP programs cover a broad range of services that help relieve symptoms.  

The Department of Human Services reminds Pennsylvanians that Medicaid enrollment is year-round and if anyone is currently uninsured, they should go to to see if they qualify for Medicaid.

“We are pleased to make this announcement today and thankful to our partners at the Centers for Medicare for Medicaid Services and our managed care organizations for working with us to ensure that anybody who needs to be tested for COVID-19 will have no barriers to the test,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller.

Providers and patients can consult the Medicaid FAQ and CHIP FAQ for more information and answers to common questions related to medical assistance coverage and COVID-19 and information on who to contact if consumers need more information.

The Wolf Administration recently released guidance through the Pennsylvania Insurance Department outlining resources available and coverage for COVID-19 testing through commercial health insurers. Read more on common questions related to commercial insurance coverage and COVID-19 here.

Visit the PA Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Lyndsay Kensinger, 717-783-1116
Erin James, 717-425-7606

Pennsylvania Update on COVID-19 in Community

On March 11, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health morning confirmed three additional presumptive positive case of COVID-19 – two residents from Bucks County and one from Montgomery County. All are adults and in isolation at home. This brings the statewide total to 15 cases; 13 of the cases are presumptive positive and two cases, the Delaware County and Wayne County cases, have been confirmed by the CDC.

“While we anticipate that there will be more Pennsylvanians with COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks, it is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves,” Secretary of Health Levine said. “Right now, you have a higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if you have traveled to a country or state with known community outbreaks or have come in contact with someone who has the virus. We are working with the health care community across Pennsylvania to keep them informed, consult on patient testing and ensuring they have the resources they need to care for patients.”

It is crucial to avoid spreading misinformation. Below are confirmed sources for accurate and factual information and updates.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is working diligently to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Pennsylvania and share information. Updates continue to be posted regularly DOH coronavirus webpage.  The Department of Health is beginning daily press briefings on COVID-19 at noon every day. These briefings are livestreamed on PAcast. The link will be the same every day.

Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

The CDC COVID-19 webpage offers a wealth of information and resources on outbreak in the United States. Information on the disease, situation updates, and specific information for travel and professionals is available and updated as needed.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health works in collaboration with the CDC for factual material.

Ready PA

Ready PA has the information to prepare by learning about:

  • Different kinds of emergencies
  • How to create all hazards/emergency plans and kits for your home, vehicle, and workplace
  • How to plan ahead if you have a special need

The Wolf Administration Preparedness Actions

The World Health Organization first announced the coronavirus outbreak in late January and the Pennsylvania Department of Health has had its Emergency Operations Center set up since February 1. The center allows for a collaborative, concentrated state response, including:

  • Activated the Department of Health’s Emergency Operations Center to allow for enhanced response coordination;
  • Begun testing for COVID-19 at the state laboratory;
  • Maintained communication and outreach with federal, state and local partners;
  • Provided symptom monitoring for residents returning from areas impacted by coronavirus;
  • Provided health care providers, businesses and education providers with information;
  • Reviewed and adapted current pandemic flu plans to prepare for spread of COVID-19;
  • Increased testing capacity;
  • Partially activated the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center at PEMA.
  • Governor Tom Wolf signed an emergency disaster declaration March 6 to ensure state agencies involved in the response have the expedited resources they need to continue to focus on the virus and its possible spread.
  • The Department of Health is providing a daily update via statewide press release.
  • On March 9, Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine began to provide daily press briefings. 
  • CDC confirmed two cases, one in Delaware County and one in Wayne County. This means Pennsylvania has 13 presumptive positive cases and two positives.

CMS Announces Actions to Address Spread of Coronavirus

March 5, 2020

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is announcing several actions aimed at limiting the spread of the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Specifically, CMS is issuing a call to action to health care providers across the country to ensure they are implementing their infection control procedures, which they are required to maintain at all times. Additionally, CMS is announcing that, effective immediately and, until further notice, State Survey Agencies and Accrediting Organizations will focus their facility inspections exclusively on issues related to infection control and other serious health and safety threats, like allegations of abuse – beginning with nursing homes and hospitals. Critically, this shift in approach, first announced yesterday by Vice President Pence, will allow inspectors to focus their energies on addressing the spread of COVID-19.

As the agency responsible for Medicare and Medicaid, CMS requires facilities to maintain infection control and prevention policies as a condition for participation in the programs. CMS is also issuing three memoranda to State Survey Agencies, State Survey Agency directors and Accrediting Organizations – to inspect thousands of Medicare-participating health care providers across the country, including nursing homes and hospitals.

“Today’s actions, taken together, represent a call to action across the health care system,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “All health care providers must immediately review their procedures to ensure compliance with CMS’ infection control requirements, as well as the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We sincerely appreciate the proactive efforts of the nursing home and hospital associations that have already galvanized to provide up-to-the-minute information to their members. We must continue working together to keep American patients and residents safe and healthy and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The first memorandum released today provides important detail with respect to the temporary focus of surveys on infection control and other emergent issues. Importantly, it notes that, in addition to the focused inspections, statutorily-required inspections will also continue in the 15,000 nursing homes across the country using the approximately 8,200 state survey agency surveyors. Surveys will be conducted according to the following regime:

  • All immediate jeopardy complaints (a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death or harm) and allegations of abuse and neglect;
  • Complaints alleging infection control concerns, including facilities with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses;
  • Statutorily required recertification surveys (Nursing Home, Home Health, Hospice, and ICF/IID facilities);
  • Any re-visits necessary to resolve current enforcement actions;
  • Initial certifications;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals that have a history of infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals/dialysis centers that have a history of infection control deficiencies at lower levels than immediate jeopardy.

The memorandum also includes protocols for the inspection process in situations in which COVID-19 is identified or suspected. These protocols include working closely with CMS regional offices, coordinating with CDC, and other relevant agencies at all levels of government. The agency is also providing key guidance related to inspectors’ usage of adequate personal protective equipment.

The other two memoranda provide critical answers to common questions that nursing homes and hospitals may have with respect to addressing cases of COVID-19. For example, the memoranda discuss concerns like screening staff and visitors with questions about recent travel to countries with known cases and the severity of infection that would warrant hospitalization instead of self-isolation. They detail the process for transferring patients between nursing homes and hospitals in cases for which COVID-19 is suspected or diagnosed. They also describe the circumstances under which providers should take precautionary measures (like isolation and mask wearing) for patients and residents diagnosed with COVID-19, or showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Finally, the agency is announcing that it has deployed an infection prevention specialist to CDC’s Atlanta headquarters to assist with real-time in guidance development.

Today’s actions from CMS are focused on protecting American patients and residents by ensuring health care facilities have up-to-date information to adequately respond to COVID-19 concerns while also making it clear to providers that as always, CMS will hold them accountable for effective infection control standards. The agency is also supplying inspectors with necessary and timely information to safely and accurately inspect facilities.

To view each memo, please visit the below links:

Suspension of Survey Activities:

Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention Concerning Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): FAQs and Considerations for Patient Triage, Placement and Hospital Discharge:

Guidance for Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in nursing homes:

Contact: CMS Media Relations
(202) 690-6145 | CMS Media Inquiries