IHA Daily Briefing: Feb. 17

Wednesday, February 17, 2021
Governor Delivers State of State/Budget Address
Reminder: Preview Hospital Star Ratings Info by Feb. 26
State Adds Vaccination Sites, Deals with Weather Impact
National COVID-19 Vaccine Forum Next Week
State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates  

Governor Delivers State of State/Budget Address
Speaking from the Illinois State fairgrounds in Springfield, Governor J.B. Pritzker this afternoon virtually delivered his State of the State/Budget address. As part of his look back at the past year and the state’s challenges with and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor said he chose the fairgrounds – now a mass vaccination site – as the setting for his address because of its historic ties to the influenza epidemic more than a century ago. “In October of 1918, a 100-bed emergency make-shift hospital was constructed here to care for Illinoisans afflicted with what became known as the Spanish Flu – because there was no more room at the hospitals,” said Pritzker. “Doctors and nurses at St. John's Springfield hospital, and those here at the fairgrounds alike were desperate. It seemed that as quickly as patients came in, they were dying even faster.”

Pritzker commended the state’s citizens for their selflessness and sacrifice in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic: “Because of all of you and what you’ve been willing to sacrifice, Illinois never ran out of hospital beds or ventilators or doctors to care for patients, even when our peer states did. Despite being one of the largest states in the country, we have one of the lowest transmission rates of COVID-19. Ours is among the most accessible testing infrastructures in the nation, even deploying mobile sites to over 450 communities around Illinois. But the price we've paid to save lives has been enormous, and we do not honor sacrifice when we do not recognize it. We've had to go an entire year separated from people that we love. In order to preserve our lives, for a time we've had to forgo our way of life.

“I know it's hard right now. I know you and your family, no matter what your circumstances, are struggling. And I know that, just as a year ago, when you needed me to be honest and tell you that this pandemic was going to affect your daily lives – right now you need someone to honestly tell you that it's going to end. Well, it IS going to end. The marathon has been long, and I believe there is one more leg left to run. It requires patience and perseverance and courage to battle the last attacks of an invisible enemy. But it is going to end. That is something I promise you.”

The Governor also outlined his FY2022 state budget proposal, calling for general fund expenditures of nearly $41.6 billion.

“The general funds budget I present today for Fiscal Year 2022 spends $1.8 billion less than FY2021. It reflects $400 million in additional cuts to appropriations, a hiring freeze, flat operational spending, full required pension payments, and the closure of unaffordable corporate loopholes. All in all, it reduces spending to meet projected revenues.”

Pritzker said, “This will be one of the most challenging budgets this government has ever had to craft, but I know there are willing partners in the General Assembly... Compromise, hard work, and a willingness to make tough decisions is going to be required of all of us. I enter the process of negotiation with an open mind. I have only one hard and fast rule – we aren't going to treat people who have been decimated by this pandemic as roadkill. Those most in need in our most desperate times deserve our help, and we cannot fail them.”

According to budget documents released by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, highlights in health programs include:

  • Covering Illinois’ Medicaid Program, the Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) proposed budget totals $29 billion, including $7.4 billion General Funds [no proposed reductions in eligibility or rates].   
  • Reduction in HFS’ FY22 general funds appropriation of $638 million is due primarily to: lower than anticipated liabilities in FY20 and FY21 and the continuing receipt of the 6.2 percentage points enhanced federal match (assumes enhanced match remains in place through calendar year 2021).   
  • Total Department of Public Health (DPH) funding $1.7 billion, including $148 million General Funds.   
  • Maintains $1 billion in federal funding for public health preparedness and COVID-19 response at DPH and at local health departments.   
  • Funds equitable COVID-19 vaccination efforts including community outreach, public education, mass vaccination events and direct funding for vaccine-administering groups.   
  • Funds contact tracing, testing activities, lab services and all associated costs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the department and local health departments.   
  • Funds grants for health protection services and COVID-19 mitigation activities at the department, to local health departments and to community-based organizations.   
  • Directs health departments’ targeted efforts to improve vaccination, testing, and contact tracing capabilities in high-risk and underserved populations.   
  • Utilizing available federal funding, the department will begin the process of updating and modernizing their disease tracking and vaccination tracking systems.

For more information on the Governor’s budget proposal, see the FY22 Budget in Brief, other budget documents and Facebook video of his address (runs 37 minutes). In the coming days, IHA will be sending members an overview of the Governor’s budget proposal, including specifics about his spending plan for healthcare.

Reminder: Preview Hospital Star Ratings Info by Feb. 26
In the calendar year (CY) 2021 outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) final rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) revised the Star Ratings methodology used in the Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings. In April, CMS will publicly report updated hospital quality data, including an update of Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings using this revised methodology.

Hospitals have until Feb. 26 to preview their information on the Hospital Quality Reporting page for QualityNet. The April 2021 Star Ratings will reflect measure performance from the Oct. 2020 update of Care Compare. Hospitals may access quick reference and help guides on the data preview period here.

IHA encourages hospitals to thoroughly review this information to understand how the revised methodology affects their Star Ratings. An overview of the methodological changes is in IHA’s CY 2021 OPPS fact sheet.

State Adds Vaccination Sites, Deals with Weather Impact
Governor Pritzker today announced the launch of three more state-supported mass vaccination sites in southern and central Illinois. Two vaccination sites will operate in Carbondale and one site will provide vaccines in Springfield. The state will also deploy additional Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination teams to stand up mobile sites in Sangamon and Jackson Counties.

At full capacity, the mass vaccination sites can administer a combined 2,700 doses daily with the new mobile teams providing an additional 1,600 in daily dose capacity. The Springfield site and the combined Carbondale sites will each launch with an allocation of 4,000 doses per week with plans to ramp up to full capacity, pending increases in federal vaccine shipments. The Governor has activated additional members of the Illinois National Guard to assist the Jackson County Health Department and the Sangamon County Department of Public Health in standing up the vaccination sites and to support the mobile vaccination sites.

Yesterday, the state announced that it was notified by the federal government that COVID-19 vaccine delivery across the entire country is being delayed due to adverse weather and road conditions. To help offset delayed vaccine deliveries, the state proactively ordered vaccine to be delivered to its Strategic National Stockpile Receipt, Store, and Stage site in anticipation of adverse weather. The state is distributing that vaccine to many providers around the state, as weather permits, to continue to support vaccination operations.

While this week's allocation to Illinois from the federal government was approximately 365,000 doses, the state has only received approximately 55,000 doses so far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated some shipments may go out today.

National COVID-19 Vaccine Forum Next Week
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is organizing a virtual National Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine, for Feb. 22-24 that will bring together practitioners from national, state, tribal, local and territorial levels who are engaged in vaccinating communities across the nation. The Forum aims to promote the most effective strategies to:

  • Build trust and confidence in COVID-19 vaccines
  • Use data to optimize vaccine implementation
  • Provide participants with practical information for increasing vaccine access in communities nationwide, especially for persons at increased risk of COVID-19 disease and those who may face barriers to vaccination.

Click here to register.

State, National, Global COVID-19 Updates
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced today 1,795 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths.

The total number of cases in the state is 1,166,717 with a total of 20,057 deaths. IDPH says that in the past 24 hours, 49,937 test specimens have been processed, with a positivity rate of 3.6%. The preliminary 7-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb. 10-16 is 2.8%, and the seven-day test positivity rate is 3.4%.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 24 hours decreased from 1,726 patients to 1,719 patients. Of that figure, 375 patients were in the ICU, with 176 patients on ventilators.

A total of doses of 2,102,500 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 445,200 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 2,547,700. A total of 1,903,942 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 256,114 for long-term care facilities. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 60,552 doses. Yesterday, 40,380 doses were administered. Weather will most likely contribute to reduced vaccinations over the next several days.

Today’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures showed more than 27.6 million confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. (a daily increase of more than 57,000 cases), with 486,466 deaths (a daily increase of 1,396).

Today’s WHO Coronavirus Disease Dashboard showed more than 109.2 million COVID-19 cases globally (a daily increase of more than 348,000 cases), with more than 2.41million deaths. The Region of the Americas (includes the U.S.) continues to lead the world with more than 48.6 million cases and more than 1.14 million deaths.