IHA Daily Briefing: April 7

Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Action Required for COVID-19 Telehealth Funding Program 
IHA Leadership Webinar on April 29: Expanding Telehealth 
FEMA Funding Available for Reopening of Eligible Facilities 
HCWs Continue to Face Serious Mental Health Challenges 
State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates 
CDC & SHEA Virtual Conference on HAIs

Action Required for COVID-19 Telehealth Funding Program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released new details and rules regarding $250 million in available funding for Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The grant program is intended to provide immediate support to providers responding to the pandemic by fully funding certain telecommunications services, information services, and devices necessary to provide critical connected care services.

The application window is expected to open by April 30, 2021; however, interested providers are strongly urged to take the following immediate actions to prepare to apply:

  • Obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) by filling out FCC Form 460, available here. (Contact USAC for specific questions about eligibility and completing the form at (800) 453-1546 or RHC-Assist@usac.org.);
  • Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN) by registering in the CORES system here; and
  • Register with System for Award Management here.

Round 2 funding was provided by Congress in the December 2020 Consolidation Appropriations Act, and builds on the initial $100 million investment Congress made when establishing the program in the CARES Act.

A list of eligible services and devices is provided in the newly released FCC report and order, beginning on page 44. Funding will be awarded in two phases. The first phase will include at least $150 million awarded to the highest-scoring applicants based on a points system, with priority given to providers located in hotspot and low-income areas; applicants who applied for, but did not receive funding in Round 1; Critical Access Hospitals; those located in healthcare professional shortage areas; and rural counties, among others.

The second phase of funding will be distributed once the initial group of awardees is identified. Applicants outside this group will be provided a 10-day period to supplement their applications before being re-ranked and the second round of funds distributed.

An FCC press release is here. Copies of previously submitted applications are here.

IHA Leadership Webinar on April 29: Expanding Telehealths 
The use of telehealth exploded last year, helping patients continue care safely during the pandemic. Learn how to build viable programs by participating in “Telemedicine Post-COVID-19, Hospital at Home and Expansion of Technology,” an IHA webinar on April 29. From 11 a.m. to noon, Daniel Kraft, MD, will lead this first webinar of IHA’s five-part Leadership Speaker Series, which runs through August.

Dr. Kraft is a Stanford- and Harvard-trained physician-scientist with more than 25 years of experience in clinical practice, biomedical research and healthcare innovation. During the webinar, he will discuss:

  • Telehealth’s potential to increase access to care for diverse patients;   
  • Long-term implications for prevention, therapy and more; and   
  • Methods to scale this innovation into the post-pandemic world.

The Leadership Speaker Series, “Returning to New: Navigating Beyond COVID-19 in a New Healthcare World,” is designed to help C-suite and department leaders adapt to evolving technology and patient needs. Subsequent sessions will cover diversity and inclusion, supply chain, staff well-being and rural healthcare. See our flyer for details on speakers and continuing education credits. Register today

FEMA Funding Available for Reopening of Eligible Facilities
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently announced availability of 100% federal funding under the public assistance (PA) program for eligible costs and work necessary to safely reopen and operate certain facilities, including private nonprofit medical facilities. This interim policy applies to eligible costs incurred and work conducted between Jan. 21 and Sept. 30, 2021.

PA recipients cannot use FEMA funds for costs reimbursed by other sources; however, the interim policy stressed that FEMA PA dollars are not considered funding of last resort. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, the purchase and distribution of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and screening and temperature scanning. PA recipients must comply with all applicable policies, including assurance that FEMA funds support equitable treatment of highest-risk and underserved populations as determined by established measures of social and economic disadvantage (e.g., the CDC Social Vulnerability Index).

HCWs Continue to Face Serious Mental Health Challenges
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of frontline healthcare workers say the crisis is taking a toll on their mental health, including about 3 in 10 who either received mental health services or thought they needed them directly as a result of the pandemic. That’s according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation/The Washington Post national survey of more than 1,300 frontline healthcare workers (those with direct contact with patients and their bodily fluids), representing people working in hospitals, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, nursing homes and assisted care facilities, and those working in home healthcare.

Most (62%) frontline healthcare workers say that worry and stress related to the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. At least 4 in 10 frontline healthcare workers say that the pandemic has negatively impacted their physical health (49%), and their relationships with family members (42%) and coworkers (41%).

Sizeable shares report experiencing sleep-related problems (47%), frequent headaches or stomachaches (31%), and increased alcohol or drug use (16%) that they attribute to pandemic-related worry and stress. More than half (56%) report experiencing at least one of these three issues.

The survey results also show that younger frontline healthcare workers (those under age 30) seem to be the hardest hit, with three quarters (75%) reporting that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, and nearly as many (69%) saying they feel “burned out.”

About 1 in 6 frontline healthcare workers (16%) say they tested positive for COVID-19 at some point during the pandemic. The share who contracted COVID-19 was somewhat higher among those working in nursing homes or assisted care facilities (24%) than in hospitals (18%), doctor’s offices or clinics (14%), or home healthcare (8%).

State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced today 3,790 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases (highest one day number since Jan. 29) and 28 deaths.

The total number of cases in the state is 1,265,457 with a total of 21,423 deaths. IDPH says that in the past 24 hours, 80,628 test specimens have been processed, with a positivity rate of 4.7%. The preliminary 7-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests from March 31-April 6 is 4.1%, and the seven-day test positivity rate is 4.6%.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 24 hours increased from 1,648 patients to 1,710 patients (highest one day number since Feb. 17). Of that figure, 353 were in the ICU, with 142 patients on ventilators.

The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Illinois is 8,423,845. This number includes doses allocated for the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities, which effectively has ended. A total of 6,552,982 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 107,302 doses. Yesterday, 139,724 doses were reported administered in Illinois.

On Tuesday, President Biden announced all adults in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccines by April 19. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city will meet the President’s April 19 date to expand vaccination eligibility but also noted that the city lacks the necessary vaccines to deliver the shots then and called for more vaccine doses to be delivered to Chicago.

Today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures showed more than 30.6 million confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. (a daily increase of more than 61,000 cases), with 555,231 deaths (a daily increase of 781).

CDC’s most recent data show that the seven-day average of new cases is a little more than 63,000 cases per day, up approximately 2.3% compared to the prior seven-day average. Hospital admissions also continue to increase. The most recent seven-day average – about 5,000 admissions per day – is up about 2.7% from the prior seven-day average. And deaths decreased 19.7% to a seven-day average of 745 per day. Nationally, vaccinations continue to increase, with the most recent seven-day average of nearly 3 million vaccinations delivered daily, up 8% from the prior seven-day period.

Today’s WHO Coronavirus Disease Dashboard showed more than 132 million COVID-19 cases globally (a daily increase of more than 517,000 cases), with more than 2.86 million deaths. The Region of the Americas (includes the U.S.) continues to lead the world with more than 57 million cases and more than 1.37 million deaths.

CDC & SHEA Virtual Conference on HAIs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) are holding Decennial Day—the first in a virtual conference series focusing on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)—on Monday, April 12. Decennial is a CDC conference that has been held once every 10 years since 1970 with a goal of setting the agenda for HAI prevention for the next decade.

Decennial Day sessions are designed to highlight evidence-based practices for providing global solutions to emerging and enduring pathogens, including antimicrobial resistance in health care. For more information, visit https://decennial2020.org/agenda/. Register here.

Decreasing HAIs and addressing antimicrobial resistance is a key focus of IHA's Institute for Innovations in Care and Quality, which is advancing person-centered healthcare in Illinois through evidence-based quality and safety initiatives to measurably strengthen quality healthcare.

For additional resources, visit IHA’s Healthcare Innovation Hub and download our implementation playbook solutions that showcase interventions Illinois hospitals have used to decrease healthcare acquired infections and address antimicrobial resistance. For questions about our programs and resources please contact us.