October 1, 2021 Edition

2021 CHEAC Annual Meeting Next Week

The 2021 CHEAC Annual Meeting will be held next week from Wednesday, October 6 through Friday, October 8. The theme of this year’s conference is “Revitalizing Public Health: Leveraging Lessons Learned from COVID-19” and will be held in an entirely virtual format.

After a one-year hiatus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to welcoming CHEAC Members and local health department staff to this year’s annual meeting which will feature three plenary addresses and a series of breakout sessions.

Additional information about the 2021 CHEAC Annual Meeting is available here.

California Becomes First State to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination in Schools

This morning, appearing at a San Francisco middle school, Governor Newsom announced that California would be requiring all school-aged children to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. The California Department of Public Health will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for in-person instruction through the emergency rulemaking process. The vaccination requirement will apply to all elementary and secondary public and private school students in California and will be phased in through two waves.

In phase one, students in grades seven through twelve will be required to be vaccinated for in-person learning starting the term after the FDA grants full approval of the vaccine for their grade span. The Administration anticipates that could occur as early as January 1, 2022, or as late as July 1, 2022. Teachers and school staff, who are currently required to be vaccinated or to test weekly, will be converted to a vaccine mandate no later than when the first phase of the student requirement becomes effective. During the second phase, students in grades kindergarten through sixth will also be required to be vaccinated once the FDA grants full approval for their grade span.

Students who are under the age of full approval, but within the grade span, will be required to be vaccinated once they reach the age of full approval (with a reasonable period of time to receive both doses), consistent with existing procedures for other vaccines. In addition, these requirements will be subject to both medical and personal belief exemptions because the changes are being made through regulation and not statute.

The Governor’s announcement can be found here and a fact sheet can be found here.  

Santa Cruz County Health Officials to Receive Prestigious 2021 Pen/Benenson Courage Award

PEN America announced they will honor Santa Cruz County Health Services Director Mimi Khin Hall and Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel with their 2021 Pen/Benenson Courage Award. The award is given to those individuals who exhibit exceptional acts of courage in the exercise of freedom of expression. Ms. Hall and Dr. Newel’s leadership gained national attention after they spoke openly about the threats they faced as a result of the data and science-based mitigation measures they implemented to protect the health and wellbeing of their community. They will accept the award at the PEN America Literary Gala on October 5, 2021, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. CHEAC extends their congratulations to both Ms. Hall and Dr. Newel.

Governor Faces Limited Time to Act on Legislative Measures

Governor Gavin Newsom faces an October 10 deadline to sign or veto measures advanced to his desk by the California State Legislature prior to their adjournment last month. With limited time remaining, Governor Newsom acted on a significant number of legislative measures spanning a wide array of subjects, including health, behavioral health, and housing and homelessness.

Below, we highlight several measures of interest to CHEAC Members and local health departments acted upon this week. As a friendly reminder, CHEAC will publish a final bill chart following the Governor’s October 10 deadline detailing results of all measures tracked by CHEAC. 

  • Homelessness and Mental Health Services – Governor Newsom on Wednesday signed into law a series of bills aimed at addressing homelessness in California and enhance responses to individuals suffering from mental health conditions. Measures signed into law include AB 362 which set forth safety regulations for homeless shelters and other measures to improve data reporting on homelessness services and funding. Additional information here.
  • Affordable Housing – Governor Newsom on Tuesday in Alameda County signed into law a package of 28 measures addressing affordable housing, housing production, and development practices. As part of the signing ceremony, Governor Newsom announced the launch of a new Housing Accountability Unit at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to work with local governments to aid compliance with state legislation mandating housing creation, including zoning and permitting issues. Additional information here.
  • Elections Measures – Governor Newsom signed into law a series of measures related to voting and elections, including a bill requiring that all registered voters receive a vote-by-mail ballot. Additional information here.

California Extends Vaccine Requirement to Additional Workers to Protect Vulnerable Residents from COVID-19

This week, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a statewide public health order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in adult and senior care facilities, as well as those employed in in-home direct care settings, to protect vulnerable residents from the virus.

The order, issued by CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, applies to the following individuals:

  • All workers who provide services or work in Adult and Senior Care Facilities (ASC) licensed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
  • All in-home direct care services workers, including registered home care aides and certified home health aides, except those workers who provide services to a recipient with whom they live or who are a family member
  • All waiver personal care services (WPCS), defined by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), and in-home supportive services (IHSS) providers, as defined by CDSS, except those workers who provide services to a recipient with whom they live or who are a family member
  • All hospice workers providing services in the home or licensed facility
  • All regional center employees, as well as service provider workers, who provide services to a consumer through the network of Regional Centers serving individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities, except those workers who provide services to a recipient with whom they live or who are a family member

The state’s new vaccine requirement mirrors the vaccine requirement for health care personnel in the state announced in early August. Workers covered by this week’s order must receive their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by November 30, 2021. Limited exemptions for religious beliefs or qualifying medical reasons are provided under the order. Workers who receive an exemption must test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis and wear a face covering while in the home or facility.

The full state public health officer order is available here.

COVID-19 Vaccine Providers Ordered to Request to Patient Contact Information

Late last week, California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón issued an order requiring all COVID-19 vaccination providers to request patients’ mobile phone numbers and email addresses for entry into the California Immunization Registry (CAIR), including the San Diego Immunization Registry (SDIR) and the Healthy Futures/Regional Immunization Data Exchange (RIDE). To order is intended to assist residents access their Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record (DCVR) from the state.

According to CDPH, not all vaccine providers are requesting a patient’s contact information before administering a COVID-19 vaccine. When health care providers then report COVID-19 vaccination information to CAIR without a patient’s contact information, the vaccine recipient is unable to access their DCVR in a timely manner and must undergo a reconciliation process with CDPH.

CDPH notes requiring providers to request contact information will support increased access to residents’ vaccine records, as well as provide for the ability to distribute tailored notification reminders about second doses needed to complete the COVID-19 vaccination series or booster doses that may be recommended for certain populations. CDPH, in its order, indicates all patient data collected in connection with vaccination and reported to CAIR is subject to stringent confidentiality protections.

Under the order, if a patient chooses not to provide their mobile phone number or email address when verbally requested by a provider, the provider must inform the individual of specified information, including that not providing the information may make it difficult for them to access their DCVR. Individuals are not required to provide their contact information and should still receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if they decline to provide the information.

The full state public health officer order is available here.

Governor Extends Telehealth Services Expansion

This week, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-16-21 to extend the provisions of a prior executive order that facilitates telehealth services by enabling medical providers to conduct routine and non-emergency medical appointments through telehealth without the risk of being penalized. The order extends the relaxation of certain state privacy and security laws for medical providers which were set to expire on September 30.

The order issued this week extends specified telehealth flexibility provisions through the end of the state of emergency or until the order is rescinded or modified. The expanded protections for providers are similar to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights waiver regarding federal privacy and security laws.

CDC Issues Health Advisory Recommending COVID-19 Vaccinations for Pregnant People

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a nationwide health advisory recommending “urgent action” to increase COVID-19 vaccination among people who are pregnant, recently pregnant (including those who are lactating), who are trying to become pregnant, or who might become pregnant in the future. CDC strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccination coverage for pregnant people remains low with significant disparities by race and ethnicity. The CDC recommends ensuring tailored, culturally responsive, and linguistically appropriate communication of vaccination benefits to pregnant persons and sets forth specific recommendations for public health agencies and health care providers.

The full CDC Health Advisory is available here.

HHS Awards Nearly $1 Billion to Modernize Health Centers

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to nearly 1,300 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Health Center Program-funded health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to support major health care construction and renovation projects. The awards are intended to strengthen the country’s primary health care infrastructure and advance health equity and health outcomes in medically underserved communities.

Health centers are anticipated to use the funding for COVID-19-related capital needs, constructing new facilities, renovating and expanding existing facilities to enhance response to pandemics, and purchasing new equipment, including telehealth technology. California was awarded nearly $140 million across 166 entities throughout the state.

A full announcement, including awarded entities, from HHS is available here.

Recent Analysis Finds Significant Increases in Smoke Days in California, U.S.

A recent analysis of federal satellite imagery conducted by the Stanford University Environmental Change and Human Outcomes (ECHO) Lab and NPR’s California Newsroom found a dramatic increase in the number of days residents are breathing smoke across California and the United States. The analysis, based on more than 10 years of data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, compared average annual number of days with smoke in the air between 2009 to 2013 with smoke days occurring between 2016 and 2020.

Several jurisdictions in California realized the greatest increases in smoke days in the U.S between the two time periods. The analysis additionally identified areas throughout the rest of the country, including in the Midwest and East Coast, who have experienced significant increases in smoke days, largely due to wildfires burning on the West Coast. Authors of the analysis indicate hotter, drier conditions in recent years have exacerbated smoke exposure in California and beyond.

The full analysis and news story is available here.