As our nation once again grapples with the historic inequities in our criminal justice system, policy makers also continue to be confronted with the disparities in our health care system. The COVID pandemic is disproportionately impacting people of color and other vulnerable populations. Policy makers continue to take action to respond to the public health crisis and resulting economic impacts. Below is a snapshot of the most 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.
Protect people from the virus and give them the information they need to be safe.
State Response Plans
- The Pennsylvania House established a public health emergency special committee. The special committee is charged to monitor and track the COVID-19 response of the Commonwealth, identify issues, develop a recovery plan and submit a report to the House by November 2020.
- Nevada announced the release of a 2-1-1 information phone application to offer another free resource to constituents seeking local health and social services.
- North Carolina and the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association announced Count on Me NC, a free online training program to help restaurants, hotels and other businesses learn the best ways to protect customers and employees from COVID-19. More than 3,500 businesses have completed Count on Me NC training.
- Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced the Rhode Island Commerce and Rhode Island Department of Health will be holding virtual forums for businesses with an opportunity to engage in dialogue and ask questions.
- Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced two additional CARES-funded programs. The Montana Business Adaptation Program will grant up to $5,000 per business to small businesses for communications tools, remote work equipment, business adaptations required to allow for better cleaning and social distancing, cleaning supplies, and travel/hotel costs related to quarantining workers. The Tourism Education Program will be a statewide informational campaign to educate visitors prior to and after arriving in Montana.
Contact Tracing and Testing
- Georgia Governor Kemp announced that pop-up COVID testing sites will be established to allow for law enforcement and protestors to get tested locally.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state is making its contact tracing training curriculum available at no cost to all states through the National Governors Association to speed the process of creating contact tracing programs.
- South Carolina created public service video messages delivered by black state leaders, including Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and the state’s chief epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell to reach predominantly black communities. South Carolina also increased testing of non-symptomatic residents by working with community leaders, local physicians, retail stores and health clinics and also established a combination of walkup testing sites and mobile units to provide access to residents who don’t have cars in predominantly black communities.
- Dallas County and city are spending $10 million each to maintain daily testing capacity at 3,000-3,500 tests. They anticipate it will fund testing for 90 days. The city is using grant relief funds from the Treasury Department to cover its costs.
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.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has established a Blue-Ribbon Commission focused on improving telehealth and broadband access using new, innovative technologies.
Provide people with the financial and health care security they need to weather COVID-19 and other health care needs they face.
- New Jersey extended the end of the state’s fiscal year from the traditional date of June 30 to September 30 to better manage their anticipated budget shortfall.
- Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced that Medicaid expansion will be placed on the ballot during the August 4, 2020 primary election.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill into law providing grants to respond to the opioid epidemic.
Build an equitable COVID-19 response and health care system which cares for all, especially the most vulnerable.
- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a series of recommendations and actions from the state’s rapid review of New Jersey’s long-term care facilities to address systemic challenges in long-term care and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and reduce impacts of future outbreaks.
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced $3.6 million in funding for nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams, and headphones to connect residents with their loved ones during COVID-19. Nursing facility providers can submit applications to HHSC to receive up to $3,000 in federal funding per facility.
- Similarly, Illinois received $1.7 million from the federal Administration for Community Living to purchase of technology devices; including iPads, Grandpads, tablets and internet, Wi-Fi, and hotspot access to increase social engagement and connectedness, targeting those who live alone, who don’t normally receive in-home services and who live in rural areas.
- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the formation of Congregate Care Unified Response Teams to test residents and staff members in Ohio’s nursing homes.
- The New York State Assembly passed more than two dozen bills last week including a bill requiring residential health care facilities to develop pandemic preparedness plans and requiring the state health department to study the health impacts of the coronavirus on minority communities.