July 24, 2020 Edition

Legislature Returns from Summer Recess Next Week

Both houses of California’s Legislature are slated to return next week to dispense with second house policy committee meetings, appropriations committee meetings, and floor sessions, in a five-week condensed schedule. According to reports, there are over 700 legislative proposals for both houses to consider during this period. Senate Committees are anticipated to also include meetings on weekends in order to meet the August 31 deadline.

CHEAC will continue to keep its members posted with the latest information as it becomes available. The latest version of the CHEAC Weekly Bill Chart is available here.

Newsom Administration Announces New COVID-19-Related Supports for Workers

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a series of new actions to increase outreach and education among employers and workers throughout the state to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work, home, and in the community. These new supports include:

  • Isolation and Quarantine Supports – The state will allocate existing federal funds to local health departments and community-based organizations to assist with supportive services for isolation and quarantine of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed. A new program, Housing for Harvest, will provide safe, temporary isolation spaces for agricultural and farm workers who test positive or who were exposed. This new program will operate in partnership with counties and local partners in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Imperial Valley.
  • Outreach and Education – The state will be expanding its #WearAMask and #StoptheSpread public awareness campaigns to reach employers, workers, and families to inform them of ways to break the cycle of spread of COVID-19 in work, home, and community settings. This effort will leverage the public service media campaign and build a more comprehensive community engagement strategy to include work with community-based organizations, promotoras, labor unions, and worker advocacy groups.
  • Employee Support – Governor Newsom announced ongoing work with the Legislature to build on previous executive action and advance worker protections through expanded paid sick leave and workers’ compensation.
  • Employer Resources – The state announced a new Employer Playbook will be released to guide employers on how to provide a clean environment for workers and customers to reduce risk. Proactive education efforts led by the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) will provide information and support to businesses to help them come into and stay in compliance. Additionally, the state will provide employers information to share with their workers regarding health insurers’ COVID-19 testing coverage and eligibility requirements.
  • Strategic Enforcement – CalOSHA and the Labor Commissioner’s Office have strategically targeted investigations in high-risk industries. Expedited enforcement authority and advanced reporting of health and safety hazards at work will improve enforcement outcomes. Requiring employers to report outbreaks to their local health departments will help track county transmission. According to the Governor’s Office, Governor Newsom will work with the Legislature to establish this authority.

Additional PSA videos and radio messages have been developed and will be launched to educate residents on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep California healthy. The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

State Orders Stockpiling of Masks, Extends BYD Contract

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a series of actions related to personal protective equipment (PPE) to further strengthen the state’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Newsom has directed the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Office of Emergency Services (OES) to increase the state’s strategic stockpile to 100 million N-95 respirators and 200 million surgical masks by early fall to account for the potential need given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

Governor Newsom also announced that OES has entered into a “bridge contract” with BYD North America to produce 120 million N-95 respirators and 300 million surgical masks for the state. The new contract totals $315 million, consisting of $255 million for N95 masks and $60 million for surgical masks.

The full announcement from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Federal Judge Orders CDCR to Set Aside COVID-19 Quarantine Space

In light of a significant number of COVID-19 cases, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Jon Tigar on Wednesday issued an order to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) requiring the state to develop a plan to vacate at least 100 beds in each prison throughout the state for quarantine and isolation purposes. The order allows the state to make at least 100 beds available through other means, such as converted indoor spaces or tents.

CDCR, in a statement, indicated they will be working closely with court-appointed Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso and other public health and health care experts to identify at least 100 beds at each institution in the event of an outbreak. According to CDCR, once spaces are identified, CDCR and the Federal Receiver will be conducting ongoing assessments to determine if additional space is required at an institution on a regular basis. The move is anticipated to contribute to the department’s ability to address potential COVID-19 outbreaks and protect inmates and staff.

DHCS Releases Formal Medi-Cal 2020 12-Month Extension Request

On Wednesday, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) released its proposed Medi-Cal 2020 12-month extension request. Recall, California’s Section 1115(a) Medicaid waiver, entitled Medi-Cal 2020, was approved by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on December 30, 2015 and is effective through December 31, 2020. DHCS intended to launch California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM), a multiyear initiative to implement overarching policy changes across all Medi-Cal delivery systems. However, the COVID-19 public health emergency significantly impacted all aspects of California’s health care delivery system, resulting in DHCS officially announcing the delay of CalAIM in May 2020.

DHCS will submit a 12-month extension request to CMS to ensure that important programs authorized through Medi-Cal 2020 continue and are eventually transitioned under CalAIM. DHCS also intends to submit a 12-month extension request for the existing 1915(b) Specialty Mental Health Services Waiver to align the terms of the waivers.

DHCS will host public hearings via webinar to solicit public comments on the waiver extension requests. These webinars will occur on:

  • Wednesday, July 29 from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm – DHCS Tribal and Designees of Indian Health Programs; more information available here.
  • Friday, August 7 from 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm – First Public Hearing; registration available here.
  • Monday, August 10 from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm – Second Public Hearing; registration available here.

Stakeholders are also invited to submit written comments to 1115waiver@dhcs.ca.gov by August 21, 2020.

CDC Issues New K-12 School COVID-19 Guidance

Late this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for K-12 school administrators who are preparing for students, teachers, and staff to return to school for in-person instruction this fall. The guidance, which includes various tools and resources, details mitigation strategies (e.g., social distancing, face coverings, cohorting), communication and messaging tactics, and various items for consideration as schools weigh options for reopening for in-person instruction.

The full CDC guidance is available here.

CMS Announces New COVID-19 Resources for Nursing Facilities

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week announced a series of initiatives intended to protect nursing home residents throughout the country from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These actions include:

  • $5 Billion in Additional Funding – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will dedicate $5 billion of the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to Medicare-certified long term care facilities and state veterans’ homes to build nursing home skills and enhance nursing homes’ response to COVID-19, including enhanced infection control. Funding could be used to address critical needs in nursing homes including hiring additional staff, implementing infection control “mentorship” programs with subject matter experts, increasing testing, and providing additional services. Nursing homes must participate in the Nursing Home COVID-19 Training to be qualified to receive this funding.
  • Enhanced Testing Activities – CMS will now begin requiring, rather than recommending, that all nursing homes in states with a five percent positivity rate or greater test all nursing home staff each week. More than 15,000 testing devices will be deployed over the next several months to support this mandate with over 600 devices shipping this week. Funds from the Provider Relief Fund can also be used to pay for additional testing of visitors.
  • Additional Technical Assistance and Support – CMS has recently deployed federal task force strike teams to provide onsite technical assistance and education to nursing homes experiencing outbreaks in an effort to help reduce transmission and the risk of COVID-19 spread among residents. CMS, in partnership with the CDC, is also rolling out an online, self-paced, on-demand Nursing Home COVID-19 Training focused on infection control and best practices. The training consists of 23 educational modules and a scenario-based learning module that include materials on cohorting strategies and using telehealth to assist facilities. The training will be available to all 15,400 nursing homes nationwide with specialized technical assistant to facilities who have been found to have infection prevention deficiencies.

Additional information on CMS’ activities are available here.

CBPP Releases Report on Hardship, Joblessness, and Health Impacts of COVID-19

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) this week released a report detailing hardship facing millions of Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for key additional relief measures in forthcoming Congressional legislation. The report highlights emerging data showing a large and growing number of households are struggling to afford food and are behind on rent, raising concerns about a spike in evictions as federal, state, and local moratoriums on evictions are lifted. The report details how hardship, joblessness, and health impacts of the pandemic are widespread and particularly prevalent among Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and immigrant households.

The full report is available here and an executive summary is available here.