Elevating the Post-Acute and
Long Term Care Profession

May 10, 2021

Lawrence County Back to Red. In  this week's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) county positivity table for Ohio, Lawrence County unfortunately returned to red status, as its positivity rate rose to 10.8%. Most other counties remained the same as last week. Erie, Morgan, Summit, and Williams Counties went from yellow to green. Auglaize, Fulton, and Highland Counties were green and turned yellow. Although not as relevant for SNF testing as before, county color still has an impact on eye protection and visitation in SNFs. Also related to positivity, we received requests recently for past county positivity rates/colors, so we created a web folder that contains all the past Ohio tables. We understand this may be useful for survey.

FDA Authorizes Pzifer Vaccine for 12 to 15-Year-Olds. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that they amended the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age. In addition, they updated their Fact Sheets for vaccination providers and recipients and caregivers to reflect the change. In trials with 2,260 adolescents, the Pfizer vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19. Side effects were similar to those in older vaccine recipients. Pfizer announced last week that they intend to apply for an EUA change for kids 2-11 in September and six months to two years in the fourth quarter of 2021.

ODH Encourages Businesses to Offer Vaccination Clinics. The Health Department (ODH) emailed vaccine providers to ask them to partner with businesses, non-profits, and other organizations that wish to hold closed vaccination clinics for their employees, customers, or others. This is another indicator that demand is down for the large-scale public clinics put on by local health departments and the state. It also may be an opportunity for OHCA members who are not receiving clinics through long-term care pharmacies to get people vaccinated. Please see ODH's email for more information.

Mandatory NHSN Vaccination Reporting Coming. We learned today from AHCA/NCAL that the Office of Management and Budget cleared a CMS interim final rule with comment period (IFC) requiring SNFs to report vaccinations to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). This is the last step before publication of the rule, which we anticipate will be effective immediately or with a very short waiting period. As we reported in last Friday's SNF News Bites, AHCA/NCAL published a blog post about changes NHSN is making in the vaccination reporting module. The blog post provided links to register for one of several opportunities to attend a recorded webinar on these changes.

Treasury Opens State/Local Stimulus Funding Portal, Provides Guidance. The Treasury Department today posted a portal for eligible state and local government entities to apply for funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Treasury is calling the program the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Program (SLFRP). In addition to the portal, Treasury published an IFC and guidance on how the money will be distributed and how it can be used, along with details on the amount allocated to each jurisdiction. According to the state distribution table, Ohio's amount under the SLFRP is $5,368,386,901, which will be paid out in two installments, presumably 12 months apart.

According to the IFC, SLFRP money can be used for many things, including "COVID-19 related expenses in congregate living facilities, including skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, incarceration settings, homeless shelters, residential foster care facilities, residential behavioral health treatment, and other group living facilities ...." Another permitted use is "[a]id to tourism, travel, hospitality, and other impacted industries that responds to the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health emergency ...." The IFC does not specifically list services provided in an individual's home, but they could be fit into some of the language. Moreover, ARPA allocates specific funding for home and community-based services through the 10% enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage the state began collecting April 1, 2021.

CMS/CDC National SNF Call Thursday. CMS announced today that they will hold a national call on Thursday, May 13, at 4:00 p.m., along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They have not yet revealed the specific agenda. You may register for the Zoom session at this link.

Occupancy Creeps Up. AHCA/NCAL's Mark Parkinson shared a three-slide dashboard that included a slide on national occupancy using the NHSN data from April 25, the most recent available. The data show national SNF occupancy at 69.9%, up from about 67.5% in January. The national figure is similar to but slightly higher than Ohio's 69.3%, also from April 25. The Ohio data cover 922 of 953 SNFs - the others did not report either total beds or occupied beds or both.