July 22, 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

Pennsylvania COVID Dashboard Data Shows Weekly Case Increases Statewide

Last Friday, Governor Tom Wolf released a weekly status update detailing the state's mitigation efforts based on the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, which compares the current seven-day period to the previous seven days.  The dashboard is designed to provide early warning signs of factors that affect the state's mitigation efforts and includes information for incidence rates, test percent-positive rates, and rates of hospitalization, ventilations and emergency room visits related to COVID-19.

With multiple counties across the state showing percent-positivity above 5%, new mitigation efforts were implemented last week, which include changes for:

Pennsylvania officials continue to stress the importance of wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth last week.  Consistent mask-wearing and regular hand washing are critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Pennsylvania DOH Builds Contact Tracing Resources for COVID-19

Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA-DOH) provided an update on contact tracing efforts in Pennsylvania.  It is estimated that the state currently needs about 625 contact tracers to identify, notify and monitor anyone who came in close contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were infectious.  To date, the Commonwealth has a total of 661 contact tracers.  The PA-DOH continues to expand and build the infrastructure for long-term public health needs, which includes volunteers, regional partnerships and hiring contact tracing staff.  The PA-DOH is also hiring contact tracing field managers and community health nurses to strengthen contact tracing needs throughout the state.  Click here for more information on contact tracing.

PA Labor & Industry Department Provides Unemployment Compensation Update

On July 20, Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak provided an update on unemployment compensation in Pennsylvania.  Since March 15, a total of $28 billion in unemployment benefits has been paid out.  Of that total, $11 billion was from regular unemployment claims, $13.5 billion was from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, $3.7 billion was from Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, $170 million was from Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation claims, and $4.1 million was from the state's Extended Benefits program.

Secretary Oleksiak also noted that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program benefits are currently set to end on Saturday, July 25 and that is the last calendar week that unemployed workers will receive the $600 payment.

Unemployed Pennsylvanians can find information on other assistance programs on the Department of Human Services' website, the Insurance Department's website and the state government's general website.  Pennsylvanians can also access assistance in learning new job skills and finding employment opportunities through Pennsylvania CareerLink.  

Hazard Pay Grants Now Available for Front-Line Workers in Life-Sustaining Industries

Last week, Governor Wolf announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The following applicants are eligible to apply:

  • Businesses
  • Healthcare Non-profits
  • Public Transportation Agencies
  • Certified Economic Development Organizations

Eligible industries include:

  • Healthcare and Social Assistance
  • Ambulatory Health Care Services
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
  • Transit and Ground Passenger Transportation
  • Food Manufacturing
  • Food Retail Facilities
  • Security Services for eligible industries listed above and commercial industries that were not closed as a result of the Governor's Business Closure Order
  • Janitorial Services to Buildings and Dwellings
Eligible applicants may apply for grants using the online DCED Electronic Single Application for Assistance from July 16 to July 31, 2020.  Inquiries may be directed to (717) 787-6245 or [email protected].

Updated Guidance Issued to Safely Reopen Pennsylvania's Schools

Last week, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera announced updated guidance to help Pre-K to 12 schools prepare to reopen and safely educate students for in-person learning.  Each school entity will determine if classes resume in person at school buildings, remotely or a combination of both options.  The guidance represents endorsed best public health practices related to social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting in school settings.  It also outlines procedures for monitoring symptoms and responding to confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in the school community.

HHS Offers Telemedicine Learning Series

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is partnering with other industry leaders to deliver a free 10-week, virtual peer-to-peer learning community called "Telemedicine Hack" to accelerate implementation of telemedicine. The series will offer best practices and cast studies from the field on practice workflow, documentation and reimbursement. Click here to learn more about the series and to register.

Previously Published but Relevant Headlines

Masks are Mandatory in All Public Spaces in Pennsylvania

On July 1, 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 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