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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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05/21/2021

HBMA COVID-19 Federal Response Update

Congress

  • The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on regulatory flexibilities during the pandemic. The hearing included many statements of support for permanently expanding Medicare telehealth coverage flexibilities. 
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee held a hearing on the CDC’s budget for FY 2022 with CDC leadership. During that hearing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said she is cautiously optimistic about where we are in the fight against COVID-19. She said slowing vaccination rates are delaying the end of the pandemic.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on weaknesses in the medical supply chain during the pandemic.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • A GAO report found that almost every nursing home in the country had at least one COVID-19 outbreak.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Economy, Vaccine, Testing and Treatment

  • New polling data shows increasing comfort levels for returning to pre-pandemic activities.
  • NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci believes many people are misinterpreting the CDC’s new mask guidance.
  • Despite new federal guidance from the CDC about easing mask-wearing requirements, It is up to state and local governments and individual businesses to implement changes to mask wearing policies. Keep track of each state’s mask-wearing requirements.
  • NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said the vaccines are proving to be more effective against certain COVID-19 variants than originally shown in studies.
  • According to the FDA, it is now safe to store unopened, thawed vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for up to one month. Previously the FDA said the vaccine could only be stored for five days once thawed.
  • An analysis of state-level CDC vaccination data shows continued racial disparities in vaccination rates.
  • Director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks said booster shots will likely be needed within one year.
  • Pfizer’s CEO believes booster shots will be needed and expects to have more data on booster shots in the next two months.
  • Twenty-one states have announced they will end enhanced federal unemployment benefits.
  • COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers outlined their own plan for increasing global supply of vaccines as an alternative to waiving IP protections.
  • COVID-19 deaths have declined to the point where several states have reported zero deaths for the first time in months. 
  • Pfizer and BioNTech reached an agreement with the European Union to provide an additional 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The production facility that had to stop manufacturing Johnson & Johnson (J&J)’s vaccine due to manufacturing errors could resume making doses in the next few days.
  • A new study shows that COVID-19 treatment Bamlanivimab is effective at reducing COVID-19 hospitalization and deaths. 
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed might need to tighten monetary policy if the economy continues to grow too fast.
  • The number of weekly new unemployment claims continues to fall