State and Federal Overview: the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), March 27, 2020

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Yesterday, the White House Coronavirus Taskforce held its daily briefing at 5:00 pm ET. Participants included: President Trump and Vice President Pence, Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Below are selected points of importance, as well as supplementary information from trusted third-party sources. Those wishing to see a transcript of the briefing may do so by following this link.

International Engagement. The President discussed management of the COVID-19 crisis with members of the G20, among others; they are working to share data. Members are addressing the crisis in different ways. The total global number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 500,000. For more information on countries where the virus is found, please review the WHO’s most recent COVID-19 situation report.

State Interactions. The President spoke to State Governors and asked them to rank counties in order of risk. Where COVID-19 tests have not been conducted, Dr. Birx said that states are working with flu surveillance and contact tracing. She stated that they’ve asked them to extend the surveillance of flu-like illnesses. The surveillance does not always include diagnosis but uses symptoms instead. This data can be used to determine who should be tested.

A letter was sent to Governors concerning the data that will be used in assessing the success of the 15-day guidelines. The timeframe for some guidelines (social distancing, hand washing, no handshakes) may be extended. This weekend, the Task Force will present options to the President for final decision on the guidelines, with the assistance of health experts.

USNS Comfort is ahead of schedule and will be underway on Saturday (March 28) for New York.

H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act,” which provides emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide emergency appropriations to support Executive Branch agency operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Job retention loans for small businesses with loan forgiveness available for businesses that keep their workers on the payroll.
  • Direct cash payments for American citizens earning less than $99,000 per year; $3,400 for the typical family of four.
  • Expanded unemployment benefits. The average worker who has lost his or her job will receive 100 percent of their salary for up to four full months.
  • Critical support for the hardest-hit industries with a ban on corporate stock buybacks and tough new safeguards to prevent executive compensation abuse.
  • Over $100 billion for doctors, nurses, and hospitals.
  • $45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • $27 billion for the coronavirus response, including $16 billion to build up the Strategic National Stockpile with critical supplies including masks, respirators, and pharmaceuticals.
  • $3.5 billion to expand assistance to childcare providers and childcare benefits to healthcare workers, first responders, and others on the frontlines of the crisis.
  • $1 billion for Defense Production Act procurement.
Read the full summary and text in their current iterations here.

Economy. The National Restaurant Association came out with a survey this morning stating that 3% of all restaurants have closed for good in the last three weeks. The projection is that 11 percent more are going to close in the next 30 days. The President indicated that with the efforts put forth by the Administration, businesses would be able to come back.

Medical.  

  • 552,000 tests have been performed and completed; still working to expand testing.
  • Abbott Laboratories submitted to the FDA a request for approval of a point-of-care test. Results would be available in 15 minutes. (More information tomorrow.)
  • FDA has allowed for self-collection at drive-thru testing sites, which will reduce the need for PPE.
  • Infection and mortality projections are being re-examined given adjustments to estimates in the UK.
The NIH, FDA, and private organizations are testing therapeutics and more information about treatments will be made available over the next few months.

Vaccines are still in Phase I and this phase will last through mid-summer. Phases II and III test the efficacy of the vaccine and this could take up to 12-18 months. However, production will start during the last two phases so they are ready for distribution once approval has been given.

Serology Testing. The CDC is handling serology testing to determine who may have had the virus, but was asymptomatic.

Other/Miscellaneous

  • Health insurance for people who are newly unemployed is being addressed.
  • Five out of the top ten counties impacted by COVID-19 are in New York City area.
  • 55% of all cases and new cases are in NYC and the metro area.
  • Dr. Birx stated that New York still has open ICU beds and ventilators.
  • Regarding news reports discussing DNRs being forced by hospitals to open up beds, that is not a real consideration. It is irresponsible to circulate.
  • 19 out of the 50 states (roughly 40%) have cases.
  • Hot spots are in urban areas or communities that serve urban areas. We are using examples of counties with rapid case increases, such as Wayne County, MI and Cooke County, IL, to see where the virus is moving.
This bill responds to the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak by providing paid sick leave, tax credits, and free COVID-19 testing; expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits; and increasing Medicaid funding.

DIVISION A. SECOND CORONAVIRUS PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2020
Second Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020
This division provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations for federal agencies to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The supplemental appropriations are designated as emergency spending, which is exempt from discretionary spending limits…

DIVISION B. NUTRITION WAIVERS
This division expands food and nutrition programs of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) due to COVID-19.

DIVISION C. EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
(Sec. 3102) This section permits employees to take public health emergency leave through December 31, 2020, to care for the employee’s child during a COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) public-health emergency. Specifically, employers of fewer than 500 workers must provide up to 12 weeks paid leave for an employee who cannot work because the school or child-care provider of that employee’s child is closed as a result of a public-health emergency…

DIVISION D. EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE STABILIZATION AND ACCESS ACT OF 2020
Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020
(Sec. 4102) This section funds emergency grants for FY2020 to administer unemployment programs in states meeting certain requirements. The amount of available funds for each state is based on the Department of Labor’s determination of the proportion of the total taxable wages attributable to a state during the preceding year…

DIVISION E. EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
(Sec. 5102) This section requires employers to provide paid sick time to employees who are unable to work due to the effects of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019). Specifically, full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time, which is available immediately, for use if the employee is subject to a governmental quarantine or isolation order, has been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine, is caring for an individual who is subject to governmental or self-quarantine, is caring for the employee’s child because the child’s school or child-care provider is closed, or is experiencing a substantially similar circumstance related to COVID-19 as specified by the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Labor…

DIVISION F. HEALTH PROVISIONS
(Sec. 6001) This section requires private health insurance to cover testing for COVID-19 without imposing cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments) for the duration of the public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020. This coverage includes the cost of administering such approved tests and related visits to health care providers…

DIVISION G. TAX CREDITS FOR PAID SICK AND PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
(Sec. 7001) This section allows a credit against payroll taxes for 100% of the employer-paid qualified sick leave wages paid each calendar quarter, subject to specified limitation. The amount of sick leave wages taken into account for purposes of the credit may not exceed $200 for any employee ($511 per day employees as defined under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act) and the aggregate number of days taken into account is limited to 10, over the number of days taken into account for preceding calendar quarters…

DIVISION H. BUDGETARY EFFECTS
(Sec. 8001) This section exempts the budgetary effects of division B and each succeeding division of this bill from (1) the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Act of 2010, (2) the Senate PAYGO rule, and (3) certain budget scorekeeping rules.

Find the full summary and text of the bill as enrolled here.
Governor Abbott Announces National Guard Deployment in Support of COVID-19 Response
As part of the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19, Governor Greg Abbott today announced the deployment of three National Guard Joint Task Force Brigades. The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the 176th Engineer Brigade will operate ten general support units located throughout the state.

“Whether it’s overseas combat, major storms, or deadly viruses, the Texas National Guard is always quick to defend and serve their fellow Texans,” said Governor Abbott. “Texans can be grateful that these troops are now standing their post alongside healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines of this crisis.”

Read the full notice here.

Information Letter No. 20-12 – Extensions of Eligibility and Individual Plan of Care Revisions for Individuals in CLASS and DBMD Due to COVID-19. To ensure individuals do not experience a gap in services due to the temporary suspension of face to face service coordination visits for COVID-19, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will extend Intellectual Disability/Related Condition (ID/RC) assessments and individual plans of care (IPC) expiring through the end of  April 2020 for individuals who are enrolled in the Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS) Program or the Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities (DBMD) Program.  In addition, for an IPC being revised during March or April 2020, HHSC is not requiring a CLASS Case Management Agency (CMA), CLASS Direct Services Agency (DSA) or DBMD case manager to conduct a face-to-face meeting with the individual nor obtain signatures on the IPC before the revision is effective.

If an individual’s ID/RC assessment or IPC expires in March or April 2020, HHSC will automatically renew the ID/RC assessment or IPC in Service Authorization System Online (SASO) for one year from the expiration date. Learn more here.

Information Letter No. 20-11 Extensions of Eligibility and Individual Plan of Care Revisions for Individuals in HCS and TxHmL Due to COVID-19. To ensure individuals do not experience a gap in services due to the temporary suspension of face to face service coordination visits for COVID-19, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will extend Intellectual Disability/Related Condition (ID/RC) assessments and individual plans of care (IPC) expiring through the end of April 2020 for individuals who are enrolled in the Home and Community-based Services Program (HCS) or the Texas Home Living (TxHmL) Program. In addition, for an IPC being revised during March or April 2020, HHSC is not requiring a service coordinator or program provider to conduct a face-to-face visit or obtain signatures on the IPC before the revision is effective.

If an individual’s ID/RC assessment or IPC expires in March or April 2020, HHSC will automatically renew the ID/RC assessment or IPC for one year from the expiration date in the Client Assignment and Registration data system (CARE). Learn more here.

Governor Abbott today waived certain Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) regulations to preserve and extend child care capacity for front line workers. These waivers will allow TWC the flexibility to respond to child care needs, and are part of the Governor’s work through the Supply Chain Strike Force to strengthen child care infrastructure for critical workers during the COVID-19 response. These waivers ensure that families using child care subsidized through TWC will not lose their slots during this interim period while the state battles COVID-19, and it secures payment to child care providers throughout this time.  As a result, TWC will be able to better respond to the child care needs of front line workers in Texas.

Under the new provisions, children within TWC’s child care services program will be able to accrue absences due to COVID-19 without impacting ongoing eligibility or provider reimbursements. TWC will also be able to waive parent share of cost requirements and direct local workforce development boards to make supplemental emergency payments to child care programs to offset payments lost due to COVID-19. Additionally, these waivers will allow TWC to temporarily broaden the definition of “protective services” to include children of workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. Read more here.

The Texas Education Agency Issued Guidance for Special Education Students.

In guidance to local districts, TEA stated that there is no defined or correct method to adequately and equitably meet the needs of all students in an unprecedented event such as the current COVID 19 pandemic response. LEAs need to be flexible and consider employing a variety of delivery options as they make reasonable efforts to provide services to students with disabilities. Above all, LEAs should prioritize health and safety of students, staff, and communities. LEAs should identify and acknowledge service delivery limitations, as well as the need for LEAs to make reasonable efforts to fully implement a student’s IEP once school resumes. This requirement to “make every effort…” does not allow a LEAs to decline all services to students with an IEP and only offer compensatory services at a later date. Read the guidance here.

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