July 8, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

POMA continues to monitor the changing information surrounding the spread of COVID-19.

In an effort to provide accurate and helpful information to POMA members, we have gathered some of the resources we are finding to be most useful and accurate at this time. We hope this helps you in staying on top of the latest developments in the spread of the disease and in helping your patients.

Beginning in July, POMA's COVID newsletter will be published on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month. Rest assured, we will send urgent items of importance when they arise. 

Stay safe and healthy!


New Headlines

Masks are Mandatory in All Public Spaces in Pennsylvania

Last week, Governor Wolf announced a new order signed by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine that makes mask-wearing mandatory whenever anyone leaves home.  Dr. Levine said "It is essential that Pennsylvanians wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  While cases increase in some areas, we cannot be complacent.  My mask protects you, and your mask protects me.  Wearing a mask shows that you care about others, and that you are committed to protecting the lives of those around you."

Pennsylvania Sees Rise in COVID-19 Cases, Specifically Younger Age Groups

Over the last week, Pennsylvania has seen an increase in the number of new positive COVID-19 cases.  The Department of Health is seeing significant increases in the number of cases among younger age groups, particularly 19-24-year-olds.  The increasing numbers are associated with travel and social gatherings, including bars, restaurants and parties.  An alert was sent to healthcare providers over the weekend about the changing COVID-19 case demographics.  The following regions have seen significant increases among 19-24-year-olds in each month from April to July:

  • SW - Approximately 5% of cases in April to nearly 30% so far in July
  • SE - Nearly 5% of cases in April to approximately 15% so far in July
  • NE - Nearly 6% of cases in April to nearly 15% so far in July
  • NW - Nearly 7% of cases in April to approximately 14% so far in July
  • SC - Approximately 7% of cases in April to approximately 14% so far in July

While serious outcomes are most commonly seen in older patients with comorbidities, patients without underlying medical conditions are also at risk for severe outcomes.

Clinicians should encourage patients to wear a mask any time they leave their house, in accordance with the Secretary of Health's Universal Face Covering Order, and to avoid being in close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or direct exposure to coughing or sneezing) with others.

Please review the alert for additional information and instructions for patients and close contacts of people diagnosed with COVID-19.

Pennsylvania Launches COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard

Last week, the Department of Health launched an online early warning monitoring dashboard that provides statewide and county-specific information about COVID-19 prevalence to track increases in disease in the community on a weekly basis.  The dashboard shows data points being used to assess the spread of the virus in the state and in each county, including the following:

  • Difference in confirmed cases;
  • Incidence rate;
  • PCR positivity rate;
  • Difference in the average daily number of COVID-19 hospitalizations;
  • Difference in the average daily number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators; and
  • Percent of hospital emergency department visits due to COVID-like-illness

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said "this dashboard provides the entire community with early warning to changes in COVID-19 infection so that we can take action to prevent spread."

Pennsylvania Distributes 6th Shipment of Remdesivir Across Commonwealth

On July 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Health distributed 3,162 doses of remdesivir to 80 hospitals across the Commonwealth.  The distribution of the investigational antiviral medication is based on the number of COVID-19 patients at the hospital over a recent seven-day period, and the severity of the illness of those patients.  While there is limited information on the safety and effectiveness of using remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients, it was shown in a clinical trial to shorten the recovery time in some patients, which is why the FDA has authorized the emergency use of the medication for COVID-19 treatment.  To date, over 30,000 doses have been distributed since mid-May.

AOASM Releases Return to Training Guidance for Athletes

With athletes across the country looking to return to training, the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM) has released its updated guidance, "Return to Training: Management of the Athlete from the COVID-19 Pandemic, Revised June 16, 2020."  The document creates a framework for return to training based on current knowledge about COVID-19.  Click here to view the guidelines.

CMS Clarifies New & Expanded Flexibilities for RHCs and FQHCs

On July 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services updated MLN Matters Article SE20016 to clarify how Rural Health Clinics (RHC) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) can apply the Cost Sharing modifier to preventive services furnished via telehealth.  Click here to view the updated article.

Previously Published but Relevant Headlines

Pennsylvania Suspends Licensing Regulations

Due to COVID-19, Governor Wolf has granted a number of temporary waivers for health care professionals to increase the available number of practitioners in the Commonwealth and reduce barriers to temporary licensure. Following are a list of waivers relevant for osteopathic physicians:

Click here for a complete list of suspended licensing regulations. For all licensing-related inquiries, please use the email addresses found here to contact the appropriate licensing board.

Updated Pennsylvania Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Cases, Graphics, Resources

Daily Briefings and Updates from Pa. Governor Wolf and Secretary Levine

Resources from the CDC

The CDC has provided guidance and resources for healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, laboratories, as well as information for schools and childcare, businesses and employers, community and faith-based organizations, and the general public. Visit the CDC COVID-19 webpage for more information.

POMA will continue monitoring COVID-19 and provide updates and recommendations from PA-DOH, the CDC, the WHO and local health agencies. POMA's COVID-19 webpage and social media channels will be updated as information is shared from these organizations.

If you have any comments or questions for POMA, please email us at [email protected]. 

Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association | 1330 Eisenhower Boulevard, Harrisburg, PA 17111
(717) 939-9318 | www.poma.org