IHA Daily Briefing: Jan. 12

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
U.S. House Letter Urges Action on Nurse Agency Rates
Dir. Ezike Updates CMOs on COVID-19 Response
Be On the Alert for Suspicious USB Drives
Illinois COVID-19 Update
Briefly Noted

U.S. House Letter Urges Action on Nurse Agency Rates
An IHA-supported “Dear Colleague” letter circulating in the U.S. House of Representatives urges the White House to engage federal agencies to investigate reports of anticompetitive behavior from nurse staffing agencies. IHA urges hospitals to contact their federal representatives and ask them to sign the letter before the Friday, Jan. 14 signature deadline.

“Staffing agencies and travel nurses are necessary to provide care to patients. However, these temporary nurses work on short-term contracts and often get paid far more than their permanent counterparts that they are working alongside,” reads the letter. “We are concerned that certain nurse staffing agencies are taking advantage of these difficult times to increase their profits at the expense of patients and hospitals. Reports have shown that some of these agencies are inflating prices by two, three, or more times pre-pandemic rates and taking 40% or more of the amount charges to hospitals for their profits.”

The letter is being circulated by Reps. Welch (D-VT) and Griffith (R-VA). Members of the American Hospital Association may access their advocacy alert here. Click here to find your representative.


Dir. Ezike Updates CMOs on COVID-19 Response
Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike briefed Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) from across Illinois today on state COVID-19 actions, as part of a weekly IHA-hosted call to provide answers—and solicit input and suggestions—from the state’s hospital leaders.

Dir. Ezike provided updates on IDPH’s surge staffing and workforce support efforts, and highlighted the Department’s help to assist with hospital discharge to free up hospital beds and improve throughput.

IDPH staff also offered an update on recent deliveries of COVID-19 therapeutics and antiviral medications being provided by the federal government. However, they once again emphasized supplies were limited and encouraged the use of these medications.


Be On the Alert for Suspicious USB Drives
Hospitals are encouraged to be on the alert for suspicious USB drives arriving in the mail. In an alert news outlets report was sent last week, the FBI has warned of a FIN7 cybercrime campaign in which attackers mail USB thumb drives to US companies.

Since August 2021, businesses have reportedly received scam letters via the U.S. Postal Service and UPS that impersonate the Dept. of Health and Human Services. These letters are said to contain messages about COVID-19 guidelines along with the USB, or imitate Amazon and arrive in a decorated gift box accompanied by a thank you message, fake gift card, and the malicious USB. If inserted into a computer the malware infected USB drive could compromise the organization’s IT and electronic systems through a "BadUSB" attack in which the USB would register itself as a keyboard and send preconfigured keystrokes and commands to the machine. These would run PowerShell commands that install malware and become a backdoor for future access.

This marks the second alert the FBI has sent about FIN7 mailing malicious USB devices to U.S. companies. The first alert was sent by the FBI in March 2020, after a security firm found one of the malicious BadUSB devices sent to one of its customers, a U.S. hospitality provider.


Illinois COVID-19 Updates
The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 34,573 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 144 additional deaths.

As of Jan. 12, 7,219 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,131 patients were in the ICU and 650 patients were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests is 12%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity is 16.7%.

The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily in Illinois is 51,745 doses. IDPH reports that 74.8% of adults (18 years and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 84% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 12 years and older, 73.4% have been fully vaccinated, while 82.4% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 5 years and older, 69% have been fully vaccinated and 78.1% have received at least one dose.


Briefly Noted
The State of Illinois is launching a new “On the Fence” vaccine awareness campaign featuring 18 meaningful stories from Illinoisans who were initially hesitant about the vaccine, but are now fully vaccinated. A recent press release said the campaign will reach Illinoisans in every corner of the state in both English and Spanish through a variety of traditional and online media channels, including cable, broadcast and connected TV; streaming audio and radio; billboards and bus shelters; digital display and video; print and social media.