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COVID-19, State Efforts

State Spotlight, April 28, 2020

Published On April 28, 2020

By: Joanna Dornfeld

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:

  • Providing accurate information and clear recommendations that people need to be safe from the virus;
  • Building a reliable health care system–both now and after the pandemic–that is adequately resourced to support front-line workers and available when they need it;
  • Providing people with financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19; and
  • Caring for the most vulnerable by building an inclusive and responsive COVID-19 approach and health care system.

Providing accurate information and clear recommendations that people need to be safe from the virus.

State Response Plans

  • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced the launch of “Healthy at Work,” a new initiative to help Kentucky businesses reopen safely as we fight the novel coronavirus. Healthy at Work offers a phased approach to reopening Kentucky’s economy. It is based on criteria set by public health experts and advice from industry experts.
  • The Utah Legislature passed the COVID-19 Health and Economic Response Act, which creates the Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission to advise and make recommendations to the Governor regarding the state’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy issued Phase 1A in the state’s Reopen Alaska Responsibly Plan. In the phase starting on Friday businesses that reopen will have to stay below 25% of their capacity.


  • Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds launched the Test Iowa Initiative to expand testing capacity to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. The state is partnering with Nomi Health and its subsidiary DOMO which has already launched a similar initiative in the state of Utah.
  • North Dakota announced a pilot project “Operation Drive-In” to expand COVID-19 testing and improve contact tracing in Amidon and Dickinson. All residents of these two areas are encouraged to participate in the testing, regardless of exposure or current symptoms.
  • In partnership with Quest Diagnostics and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, the Baker-Polito Administration announced efforts to increase COVID-19 testing through community health centers.

Contact Tracing

  • North Dakota is working on a new database to aid contact tracing. Governor Burgum said the new system will save time for what has mostly been a manual process for gathering information. Federal funds will help cover the costs.
  • Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham says New Mexico has accepted an invitation from the White House to participate in a pilot program to improve and expand contact tracing for coronavirus infections in efforts to better isolate outbreaks.
  • The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention plans to double its number of coronavirus trackers over the next week, using a combination of retired state epidemiologists and new hires to boost its staff of so-called “disease detectives” from 15 to 30.
  • Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services is launching a large-scale effort with more than 2,000 volunteers to expand contact tracing capacity. They are targeting volunteers with a background in public health, health care fields, or community organizing.
  • In Kansas, Sedgwick County has been doing contact tracing since the start of the start of the outbreak. There are 20 medical students working on contact tracing along with hundreds of volunteers.

Building a reliable health care system–both now and after the pandemic

  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Wisconsin’s request for a Section 1135 Medicaid waiver. This will enable Wisconsin to provide flexibilities in Medicaid provider screening and enrollment, forgo certain pre-admission screening and annual resident review assessments, lift prior authorization requirements, allow for reimbursement facility services in alternative settings, extend fair hearing timelines and waive public comment and tribal consultation requirements for certain changes to the Medicaid state plan.
  • Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced that the first four grants of a $10 million program were distributed to support small and rural hospitals facing financial strain.
  • Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed an executive order temporarily waiving physician supervision or collaboration requirements for certain medical licensees, including advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants and licensed practical nurses. The order also allows out-of-state health care providers to practice in Kansas.
  • As part of Kentucky’s plan to restart its economy, Governor Andy Beshear announced a plan to start easing restrictions that will allow for diagnostic and radiology testing, as well as non-urgent, emergent, in-person office and ambulatory visits.

Providing people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19.

  • A multi-state initiative was announced last week, securing payment relief options for student loan borrowers who were not included in relief issued at the federal level. States included in this collaborative include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington.

Building a COVID-19 response and health care system that cares for the most vulnerable.

  • North Carolina and Illinois announced federal approval to participate in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, to help families with school-aged children (who would have received free or reduced lunch) purchase groceries through SNAP.
  • Texas Governor Abbott announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will receive nearly $54 million in federal funds to support older Texans and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 response.
  • Minnesota will expand testing and prioritize vulnerable populations, including Minnesotans living in congregate settings and those experiencing homelessness; staff that serve vulnerable populations and health care workers; communities of color and American Indian populations; and workforce for critical infrastructure.
  • Michigan announced a comprehensive strategy to combat the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care settings and ensure residents and employees are protected. The strategy includes enhanced reporting requirements for all long-term care settings, activating a COVID-19 Infection Prevention Resource and Assessment Team, and establishing COVID-19 Regional Hubs.