May 26, 2020 COVID-19

State Spotlight May 26, 2020

United States of Care is supporting policy makers and public servants across the country as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Our support includes sharing innovative approaches communities and states are taking to respond to the immediate public health crisis and the resulting economic impacts. Below is a snapshot of the most interesting and innovative action we saw in states over the last week from the public and private sectors. These policies are focused in four priority areas:

  • Protect people from the virus and give them the information they need to be safe.
  • Build a reliable health care system that is adequately resourced to support front-line workers and available to care for people when they need it – both now and after the pandemic.
  • Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
  • Build an equitable COVID-19 response and health care system which cares for all, especially the most vulnerable.

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Protect people from the virus and give them the information they need to be safe.

State Response Plans

  • State Governors and Legislatures are working together to allocate CARES funding. Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order, backed by legislative leadership to allocate $1.6 billion. The Alabama Legislature approved Governor Kay Ivey’s amended spending plan which appropriates $1.8 billion. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon has signed three pieces of legislation passed by the Wyoming Legislature that provide a framework for spending $1.25 billion.

Contact Tracing

  • Illinois Governor Pritzker announced the Illinois Contact Tracing Collaborative, a locally-driven approach to scale up contact tracing. The state is immediately engaging two local health departments to pilot this initiative
  • Kentucky will use some of its $112 million CARES Act funding for an expanded seven-month contact tracing program that uses both human staffing and the power of technology. The Department for Public Health is working with Deloitte Consulting to launch the statewide effort, with a goal of hiring about 700 people.
  • Alabama, South Carolina and North Dakota announced that the states will launch a new smartphone application using exposure notification technology developed by Apple and Google and made available to public health agencies to assist with COVID-19 contact tracing. The app, Care19 Exposure, is expected to be available within the next two weeks. These apps use bluetooth keys on cell-phones that enable tracers to see/notify who the infected person had been in proximity to in the past 14 days, and users of the app must give explicit consent to share data with the app.
  • Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland’s statewide contact tracing operation across all 24 of the state’s jurisdictions will be fully operational next week. Maryland is now on track to have more than 1,400 case investigators statewide.The Maryland Department of Information Technology and the Maryland Department of Health partnered to develop COVID Link, a state-of-the-art data management platform, to facilitate the state’s contact tracing partnership with local officials.
  • Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon allocated $17 million in CARES Act funding to expand the state’s testing capacity, improve contact tracing efforts, and increase the state’s supply of PPE.

Testing Expansion

  • Maine Governor Janet Mills announced that the State of Maine has received $52.7 million in Federal grant funding from the CDC to bolster epidemiological and laboratory capacity to respond to infectious diseases, particularly COVID-19. The state will use this funding to expand the state’s lab capacity, bolster rural hospital lab capacity, and establish drive-through testing sites.
  • Missouri released its plan to strategically increase testing by: ramping up testing in congregant living facilities, including long-term care sites, to limit outbreaks; sentinel testing within vulnerable populations at state-operated facilities across 28 counties, specifically those overseen by the Departments of Corrections, Mental Health,and Social Services, and the Missouri Veterans Commission; and community sampling though testing sites in various counties across the state.
  • New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs has authorized licensed New Jersey pharmacists to widely administer COVID-19 tests to customers. Under the Director’s order, pharmacists may administer tests for COVID-19 or its antibodies without a prescription.

Build a reliable health care system that is adequately resourced to support front-line workers and available to care for people when they need it – both now and after the pandemic.

  • Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the final distribution of $10 million in Small and Rural Readiness Grants to support smaller hospitals facing financial strain.
  • The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced the new Illinois Connected Communities grant program designed to assist local governments, schools, and community organizations with building broadband capacity.
  • Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce to lead the state’s economic recovery. The taskforce is charged with leading Kansas forward in recovery from the far-reaching effects of COVID-19. The Recovery Office team will be responsible for the statewide distribution of significant CARES Act funding. The three subcommittees will focus on communication and engagement, finance and policy development and implementation and accountability.
  • Governor Cuomo announced that New York State and Local Governments Will Provide Death Benefits for Frontline Workers Who Died From COVID-19.

Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.

  • Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed Executive Order #20-32 which provides temporary relief from certain restrictions concerning shared work programs. The order expands flexibility for Kansas employers, so they can take advantage of the existing federal programs. Shared Work is an alternative for employers faced with a reduction in workforce and allows an employer to divide the available work or hours of work among a specified group of affected employees in lieu of a layoff.
  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-93, which continues to allow pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days’ worth of supply for patients and require insurers to cover early refills for up to 90 days’ worth of supply during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The order will also allow pharmacists to dispense COVID-19 treatments according to government-approved protocols.
  • North Carolina has begun distributing a one-time supplemental payment to families enrolled in the Work First Cash Assistance program with one or more children. These payments are intended to help vulnerable families during the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Baker-Polito Administration announced $56 million to combat urgent food insecurity for some Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19. This funding is consistent with findings of the Food Security Task Force, which was convened by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center in response to increased demands for food assistance.
  • In Virginia, the Legislature passed and sent Senate Bill 251 to the Governor. SB 251 establishes licensure and other requirements for pharmacy benefits managers.
  • New Jersey and Illinois announced federal approval to allow Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries to shop for groceries online.

Mental Health + Substance Use Disorders

  • Florida’s Department of Children and Families was awarded $1.9 million in grant dollars from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). $600,000 is allocated for mental health services, via telehealth technology, for healthcare practitioners and other individuals experiencing mental health and/or substance abuse issues brought on by COVID-19, and $1.3 million to be distributed in areas that have the highest volume of confirmed cases, so they can continue offering critical behavioral health services.
  • Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced the state will fund a nearly $1 million distribution of the opioid reversal agent naloxone to ensure the medication reaches Hoosiers who are at-risk of overdose. “In the face of COVID-19, it’s even more imperative that we provide resources and support for people with substance use disorders,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Making potentially lifesaving treatments more readily available is one of the top ways we can address this crisis.”
  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced four contracts to provide Mobile Addiction Services Vans in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Fall River, and New Bedford, that will serve individuals at high risk for overdose and other medical complications associated with substance use. The mobile vans will provide treatment and basic clinical care including medications for addiction treatment, naloxone distribution and training, and syringe exchange. They will also offer primary care services such as wound care, vaccinations, screenings for communicable diseases including HIV and tuberculosis, and referrals to behavioral health services and specialty care.

Build an equitable COVID-19 response and health care system which cares for all, especially the most vulnerable.

Protecting the elderly and/or those in Long Term Care

  • Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai introduced a bipartisan plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout nursing homes. The Senior Protection Act would appropriate $500 million from Pennsylvania’s $3.9 billion share of CARES Act relief funding to academic health systems to establish regional health collaboratives to manage personnel, protocols and testing.
  • Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the launch of the Caregiver Services Corps, a program to support Maryland seniors who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Caregiver Services Corps is able to quickly deploy volunteers and other resources to the homes of seniors who need urgent assistance with everyday tasks when their typical caregiver becomes unable to help them due to COVID-19 exposure, illness, or other challenges
  • The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is taking further action to prevent and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities. All long-term care facilities in the state will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) packs of needed supplies, and facilities will receive a limited increased rate for some Medicaid services to support infection prevention and management.