September 24, 2021 Edition

Registration for 2021 CHEAC Annual Meeting Closes Soon!

Registration for the 2021 CHEAC Annual Meeting will be closing soon! This year’s conference theme is “Revitalizing Public Health: Leveraging Lessons Learned from COVID-19.” The conference will be held in an entirely virtual format from October 6 through October 8. This year’s meeting will feature the following plenary sessions:

  • Exploring Opportunities in Public Health Infrastructure
    • Mr. John Auerbach, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • A Conversation with California State Leadership
    • Dr. Tomás Aragón, California Department of Public Health
    • Ms. Michelle Baass, California Department of Health Care Services (newly appointed!)
  • Building California’s Public Health Workforce
    • Ms. Tia Orr, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California
    • Dr. Michael Lu, University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health
    • Ms. Susan Fanelli, California Department of Public Health

CHEAC welcomes local health department executives and staff to attend this year’s conference. For additional information and registration, please visit here.

For individuals that have already registered, please stay tuned for forthcoming information about the schedule, accessing the event, and other important details.

FDA, CDC Act on Pfizer COVID-19 Boosters for Certain Populations

Following last week’s recommendation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for older adults and high-risk groups, the FDA and the CDC took similar steps this week to authorize and recommend the boosters for certain populations.

On Wednesday, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allow for use of a single booster dose to be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series in:

  • Individuals 65 years of age and older
  • Individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19
  • Individuals 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19

The booster dose authorized by the FDA applies only to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations. Today, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the ACIP’s recommendations. The CDC now recommends:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series
  • People aged 50-64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series
  • People aged 18-49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks

According to the CDC, many of the people who are now eligible to receive a booster dose received their initial vaccine early in the vaccination program and will benefit from additional protection.

Following the FDA’s authorization for booster doses, California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón issued a statement reassuring residents of the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and expressing support for the administration of booster doses among certain populations. The state officials also indicated the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup would be assessing available data, the FDA’s authorization, and the CDC’s recommendations today.

The Western States Workgroup this afternoon issued a statement on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster following their meeting today. The Workgroup concurred with the CDC’s recommendations and aligned their guidance with the federal government’s.

The Workgroup additionally strongly endorsed “CDC’s recognition that long-standing systemic health and social inequities have increased the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.” Therefore, the Workgroup recommends that social determinants of vulnerability be included in the assessment of conditions that qualify individuals for booster doses. The Workgroup also called on the FDA and CDC to quickly identify solutions to sustain the protection of the most vulnerable individuals who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccines.

Additional information from the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom is available here.

California Issues COVID-19 Vaccine Action Plan

On Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the issuance of the COVID-19 Vaccine Action Plan that outlines how the state will immediately begin administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to eligible residents, continue the state’s equity focus on eligible but unvaccinated individuals, and expand operations once more residents become eligible. The move follows Wednesday’s authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster doses to be administered to those over the age of 65 and other high-risk individuals.

According to the Newsom Administration, the vaccine action plan was developed in concert with local partners and providers statewide and works to leverage the existing vaccine infrastructure to connect eligible residents with local providers who can administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

Under the plan, the state identifies five strategies by population group to leverage all partners and resources to administer the COVID-19 vaccine most effectively:

  • Immunocompromised Individuals: Administration of an additional dose of vaccine through the existing health care delivery system, largely pharmacies and primary care providers.
  • Unvaccinated or Not Fully Vaccinated: Administration of vaccine through local health jurisdictions (LHJs) to reach hard-to-reach populations in trusted and easy-to-access locations.
  • Under 12 Population: Administration of vaccine through a combination of Vaccines for Children (VFC) providers, school-located vaccination clinics, pharmacies, and other primary care and pediatric providers.
  • Boosters for Those 65+: Administration of vaccine through the existing health care delivery system, largely pharmacies and primary care providers.
  • Boosters for Those 12-64: Administration of vaccine through a combination of existing health care delivery systems, pharmacies, primary care providers, schools, and mass vaccination clinics set up during peak timeframes.

The plan additionally highlights challenges and considerations in further administering COVID-19 vaccines, including that no federal staffing resources will be available, the federal pharmacy partnership used in vaccinating those in long-term care facilities will not be restarted, and support may be needed for LHJ mass vaccination clinics.

The state’s full plan is available here. Additional information from the Governor’s Office is available here.

Biden Convenes Global COVID-19 Summit, Sets Ambitious Goals to End Pandemic

On Wednesday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. convened heads of state and leaders from international organizations, the private sector, philanthropic organizations, non-governmental entities, and others for the “Global COVID-19 Summit: Ending the Pandemic and Building Back Better.” As part of the summit, President Biden called on leaders to elevate global efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022 and bolster global health security to prevent and prepare for future pandemics.

During the summit, global leaders coalesced around a set of ambitious global targets across the four following themes:

  • Vaccinate the World by enhancing equitable access to vaccines and administering vaccines
  • Save Lives Now by solving the oxygen crisis and making tests, therapeutics, and personal protective equipment (PPE) widely available
  • Build Back Better by preparing in all countries, establishing a sustainable health security financing mechanism, and demonstrating political leadership in preventing and preparing for future pandemics
  • Calling the World to Account by aligning around common global targets, tracking progress, and supporting one another in fulfilling commitments

President Biden announced several new U.S. commitments to accelerate progress in achieving the established targets. The U.S. will donate an additional half-billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to low- and lower-middle income countries around the globe with shipments beginning in January 2022. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plan to provide an additional $370 million for global vaccine readiness and capacity to facilitate vaccine administration.

Additional information on the Global COVID-19 Summit is available here.

Newsom Signs Measures on Health, Climate Change, Immigrant Protections

Governor Gavin Newsom this week continued acting on measures sent to his desk by the California Legislature prior to their adjournment for the year on September 10. Recall, Governor Newsom has until October 10 to sign or veto measures, and measures without affirmative action (sign or veto) will automatically become law.

Below are some of the notable measures signed into law by Governor Newsom this week:

  • Budget Trailer Bill on Health: Governor Newsom on Thursday signed into law SB 171 which serves as the second health-related budget trailer bill passed by the Legislature this year. The measure sets forth various provisions on home- and community-based services, a housing analysis, and network adequacy standards. A brief overview document of SB 171 produced by CHEAC is available here.
  • Climate Change: Governor Newsom, visiting the site of the KNP Complex Fires in Sequoia National Park, signed a set of 24 measures focused on climate and clean energy and drought and wildfire preparedness. Governor Newsom additionally highlighted the California Comeback Plan’s investment of over $15 billion to address climate impacts facing California. Measures signed by Newsom include supporting immediate drought response and long-term water resilience, extreme heat preparedness, and sea level rise mitigation activities. Additional information here.
  • Immigrant Community Protections: Governor Newsom today signed into law a series of bills to protect the safety of immigrant Californians and improve protections against discrimination. Among the bills signed into law include AB 1096, removing the term “alien” to refer to foreign-born individuals from state statutes, and AB 263, clarifying the requirement for private detention facilities, including those used to house and detain immigrants, to comply with local and state public health orders. Additional information here.
  • Warehouse Employer Practices: Governor Newsom signed AB 701 requiring specified companies to disclose production quotas descriptions to their workers and prohibiting the use of algorithms that disrupt worker rights such as rest periods, bathroom breaks, and health and safety laws. The measure also specifies that workers cannot be fired or retaliated against for failing to meet unsafe quotas and allows workers to pursue injunctive relief. Additional information here.
  • Reproductive Health Services: Governor Newsom signed two measures, AB 1356 and AB 1184, protecting the privacy of patients seeking sensitive health care services, including reproductive health services, and establishing new safeguards to protect patients and providers from harassment. Additional information here.

Few CHEAC-tracked measures were acted upon within the past week. As a reminder, CHEAC will issue a final bill chart after the Governor’s October 10 deadline detailing all actions on measures of interest to CHEAC Members and local health departments.

Newsom Issues Executive Order on Remote Public Agency Meetings

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-15-21 waiving the application of AB 361 until October 1, 2021, when the provisions of a prior executive order that established specified requirements for public agencies to meet remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic will expire.

AB 361, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom last week, extends the flexibilities provided in the Governor’s prior executive order to local and state bodies to hold public meetings electronically beyond the executive order’s September 30, 2021, expiration date. The order issued this week specifies that for any meetings held to determine if remote meetings are justified beyond September 30, local legislative bodies must follow statutory requirements established by AB 361. 

HHS Announces Funding for Public Health IT Workforce

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) this week awarded $73 million in cooperative agreements as part of its Public Health Informatics & Technology Workforce Development Program (PHIT Workforce Program). The program, announced earlier this year and funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), aims to strengthen U.S. public health information technology efforts, improve COVID-19 data collection, and increase representation of underrepresented communities within the public health IT workforce.

The 10 awardees will form multiple consortia to collectively train more than 4,000 individuals over a four-year period through an interdisciplinary approach in public health informatics and technology. The consortia will develop curricula, recruit and train participants, secure paid internship opportunities, and assist in career placement at public health agencies, public health-focused non-profit organizations, or other public health-focused organizations. Awardees from California include the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

Additional information on the program is available here.

Biden-Harris Administration Launches House America Initiative

This week, the Biden-Harris Administration launched House America: An All-Hands-On-Deck Effort to Address the Nation’s Homelessness Crisis. The initiative, to be led by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, is a national partnership in which HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) invite state and local government officials to use historic investments provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to address the crisis of homelessness through a Housing First approach by immediately rehousing and building additional housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.

According to HUD, communities were provided significant housing resources through ARPA, including 70,000 emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion in HOME grants, and significant investments to preserve and protect housing on tribal lands. ARPA additionally provides $350 billion in state and local fiscal recovery funds to support the many needs of communities, including homelessness and housing instability.

The House America initiative calls on state, tribal, and local leaders to partner with HUD to use ARPA resources, alongside other federal, tribal, state, and local resources to set and achieve ambitious goals to rehouse individuals experiencing homelessness and add new units of affordable housing that address homelessness into the development pipeline by December 31, 2022.

HUD Secretary Fudge convened a virtual event with federal, state, and local government officials to launch the new initiative. Governor Gavin Newsom, along with several mayors of large California cities, attended the event. Governor Newsom, in a statement following the event, applauded the Biden-Harris Administration for working to address homelessness and reiterated California’s efforts and significant investments in housing and homelessness services.

Additional information on the HUD initiative is available here.

State Secures Federal Assistance in Response to Fawn Fire in Shasta County

Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced California has secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help ensure the availability of resources needed to contain the Fawn Fire burning in Shasta County.

The FMAG will enable local, state, and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75 percent reimbursement of eligible fire suppression costs. The program, administered through the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), provides rapid financial assistance to communities impacted by fires.

Additional information on the FMAG is available here.