July 30, 2021 Edition

Newsom Signs FY 2021-22 Budget Trailer Bill on Health

On Tuesday during a visit to a health clinic in Fresno County, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 133, the FY 2021-22 state budget trailer bill on health. AB 133 was the last of the budget trailer bills passed by the Legislature prior to their adjournment for summer recess earlier this month.

AB 133 includes numerous sweeping investments in health care, behavioral health, and health coverage. Notably, the measure expands full-scope Medi-Cal eligibility to low-income adults ages 50 years and older, regardless of immigration status, making California the first state in the nation to do so. The state’s ambitious California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) initiative, behavioral health reforms, continued telehealth flexibilities, and extended Medi-Cal eligibility for post-partum individuals were other top-line items included in AB 133.

CHEAC recently published a summary chart detailing key provisions of AB 133 available here. CHEAC’s full agreement memo for FY 2021-22 is available here. An announcement on the signing of AB 133 from the Governor’s Office is available here.

CDC, CDPH Recommend Indoor Masking, Regardless of Vaccination Status

In a shift from previous guidance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended that all Americans wear a face covering when in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC’s masking update comes as sharp increases in B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant cases emerge throughout the U.S. Under Tuesday’s announcement, the CDC adds testing recommendations for fully vaccinated persons following an exposure to COVID-19 and further recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Following Tuesday’s CDC announcement, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) similarly updated its Guidance for Face Coverings, recommending that face coverings are used in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. CDC notes that more than 90 percent of California’s population currently reside in jurisdictions designated as substantial or high transmission by the CDC.

The CDC’s updated guidance is available here. A press announcement from CDPH is available here.

California Requires State Employees, Health Care Personnel to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine or Test Regularly

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the State of California will require all state employees and health care personnel to either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or be tested at least once per week. California is encouraging all local governments and other employers to adopt a similar protocol.

Under the state order, health care settings (defined as acute health care and long-term care settings; high-risk congregate settings; and other health care settings) must verify that all employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Unvaccinated workers will be subject to at least weekly COVID-19 testing and will be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The requirement for state employees will take effect on August 2 and testing will be phased in over the coming weeks. The policy for health care personnel and congregate facilities will take effect on August 9, and health facilities will have until August 23 to come into full compliance. To ensure the availability of testing, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) on Monday issued APL 21-020 to all full-service health care plans operating in California reminding plans of their obligation under federal law to cover COVID-19 testing for enrollees. 

Additional information from the Governor’s Office is available here. The State Public Health Officer Order from Dr. Tomás Aragón is available here.

Notably, several other governments and entities this week announced similar vaccination and testing requirements for employees and affiliated personnel. One such announcement came today from the White House, which will begin requiring all federal employees and federal contractors to attest to their vaccination status. Unvaccinated personnel would be required to wear masks, physically distance from others, and comply with at least once weekly testing. The Biden-Harris Administration is additionally calling on state and local governments to incentivize vaccinations by providing individuals receiving vaccines $100. Additional information is available here.

CDPH Convenes K-12 Safe Return to School Panels

On Thursday, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a series of community meetings to share information about COVID-19 as parents and students prepare for full-time, in-person instruction this coming fall. The school health plans are 90-minute virtual meetings featuring local education representatives, medical experts, school mental health experts, community advocates and others.

Nine panels are occurring between July 28 through August 5, with at least four sessions in Spanish in targeted school districts based on a combination of health- and school-related factors, including COVID-19 vaccination rates, COVID-19 transmission, and last school year’s instruction method. Targeted school districts include those in Alameda, Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Sacramento, and the Inland Empire.

CDPH’s new campaign is supported by Safe Schools for All, the $25 million parent engagement campaign to support the safe opening of schools in the fall. In addition to $1 million for this current outreach campaign, on-the-ground local collaborations between local health departments and county offices of education will be carried out statewide. 

Additional information from CDPH is available here.

CDC Awards $117 Million in Ending HIV Initiative

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $117 million to state and local health departments to help rebuild and begin to expand HIV prevention and treatment efforts as the U.S. continues its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The awarded funds are part of the federal Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative.

This week’s awards are the second major round of funds delivered to state and local health departments as part of the initiative, and funds will be used to expand access to the initiative’s four major strategies and to reduce health disparities. California local health departments are slated to receive a combined total of nearly $12 million to Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.

Additional information on the funding awards is available here.

HHS, DOJ Issue Guidance on “Long COVID” and Disability Rights

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this week jointly issued guidance on how “long COVID” can be a disability under specified provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

HHS notes that people continue to experience symptoms that can last weeks or months after being infected by COVID-19, with their condition being referred to as “long COVID.” Under the guidance issued by the federal government, individuals who experience disabilities as a result of long COVID are protected under certain nondiscrimination laws.

Additional information from HHS is available here.

TFAH Report on Improving Health, Controlling Costs, and Creating Health Equity

The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) issued a report this week entitled “Leveraging Evidence-Based Policies to Improve Health, Control Costs, and Create Health Equity” that highlights evidence-based policies that can be implemented to address the root causes of disease. Policies that the report highlights include supporting access to high-quality health services; promoting economic mobility; ensuring access to affordable housing; promoting safe and healthy learning environments for children; and health-promoting excise taxes. For each identified policy area, the report also gives summaries of the health and economic evidence, identifies the main components of the policy, identifies a case example, and recommends action steps for policymakers. TFAH’s full report can be found here.