Secretary Levine Announces First Contact Tracing Consortium

Your Update for 6-3-20

*This information is changing quickly, so be sure to check for any updated information.

We will be adding our daily updates to our website a week after publication. If you would like to receive RPG’s update as it comes out, please sign up here: eepurl.com/gKVAoP

Press Conference with Secretary Levine:

At 2:30 pm on June 3, Secretary Levine held a press conference to provide an update on the COVID-19 situation in Pennsylvania.

Secretary Levine announced that the first regional contact tracing meeting occurred in Southwestern Pennsylvania last week. This meeting brought together, businesses, health centers, health systems, universities, foundations and more. While this is the first consortium to meet, the Department of Health is currently working to set up one in each of the 6 regions of the state.

These consortiums will assist in the recruiting and training of contact tracers, as well as coordinating the information and data these tracers collect.

Secretary Levine also announced that the commonwealth is partnering with Walmart and Quest Diagnostics to provide 19 additional free testing sites across North Central, and North West Pennsylvania. The first 5 drive-thru testing sites will open on June 5, and available for testing Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 7:00 am and 9:00 am.

>>Read about the Department of Education’s guidance for the phased reopening of schools.

Secretary Levine gave an update on the number of cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth (+73,405), an increase of 511 cases. COVID-19 is in all of the Commonwealth’s counties. There were 75 new deaths associated with COVID-19, bringing the total deaths in Pennsylvania to 5,745. There were 617 positive serology tests, which are counted as probable cases of COVID-19, and not confirmed cases.

There are 15,752 residential cases and 2,719 employee cases in 611 long-term care facilities in 44 counties, which includes nursing facilities and personal care facilities. There have been 3,621 reported deaths in long term care facilities due to COVID-19. Deaths in nursing and personal care facilities account for ~63% of the total deaths in Pennsylvania.

>>Governor Wolf announced that the stay-at-home order ends on June 4, 11:59 pm.

68% of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 in Pennsylvania have recovered.

According to the Hospital Preparedness Dashboard, 45% of hospital beds, 38% of ICU beds, and ~77% of ventilators in Pennsylvania Hospitals are still available. A total of 5,557 COVID-19 cases are in healthcare workers.

Check out the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Dashboard here. You can view the data on infections by COVID-19 in Pennsylvania here.

You can watch the daily press conference here.

An Update from DC:


Paycheck Protection Program

The Senate aims to clear legislation to extend the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as today after Sen. Ron Johnson seeks some clarifications. Johnson objected to a move by Sen. Schumer to pass the bill, saying he wanted some clarifications that wouldn’t change the bill itself, and that he hoped to have the issue resolved later today.

The bill would extend the current eight-week period during which businesses must use funds to have loans forgiven to 24 weeks or Dec. 31, whichever comes sooner.

COVID-19 Response Packages

Republican lawmakers are voicing deep skepticism about passing another round of $1,200 rebate checks as they contemplate the next and possibly final stage of coronavirus relief legislation.

Senate Republicans on Tuesday said they are more focused on reforming the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, providing more money for cash-strapped state and local governments, boosting benefits for Social Security recipients and fixing other elements of COVID-19 relief bills passed earlier this year.

Ridge Policy Group has also heard that Republicans in the Senate want to pause for even longer before considering upcoming packages, perhaps even into September. There could also be a delay as Congress begins to consider how to respond to recent news about police brutality.

Senate Activity beyond COVID-19

The Senate in the coming weeks will take up bipartisan legislation on protecting public lands and also consider the annual defense policy bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in opening floor remarks today.

Highway Bill

House Democrats unveiled a five-year $494 billion highway bill today, without a parallel proposal from the tax-writing panel to pay for it. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to consider the bill on June 17. If it’s approved, it is tentatively scheduled for a vote on the House floor at the beginning of July. While not a comprehensive infrastructure bill, the package is being seen as a way to spur the economy in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Vaccine Development

The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, senior officials said. The five companies are Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology firm, which Dr. Fauci said he expected would enter into the final phase of clinical trials next month; the combination of Oxford University and AstraZeneca, on a similar schedule; and three large pharmaceutical companies: Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer. Each is taking a somewhat different approach.

Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery

 The Senate confirmed Brian Miller, a White House lawyer, in a 51-40 vote as special inspector general for pandemic recovery, overseeing the Treasury Department’s use of $500 billion in stimulus funds. Democrats, except Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), voted against Miller, raising concerns that his role as special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel at the White House could compromise his independence.

Agriculture Worker Guidance

Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue guidance for recommended actions to protect agriculture workers from coronavirus exposure. The guidance includes screening workers for virus symptoms, installing plastic barriers when distances of six feet between individuals are not possible and encouraging workers to use cloth face coverings in certain circumstances.

Banking Relief

U.S. bank regulators are poised to resume easing Wall Street rules after spending the past few months carrying out emergency actions to help the economy weather the coronavirus pandemic. Their first steps will include the resumption of work on plans to dial back lenders’ margin requirements by billions of dollars, according to Brian Brooks, acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Some moves could be taken as soon as this month.

OCC, along with the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., is also on the verge of finishing an overhaul of Volcker Rule curbs on banks’ involvement in certain investment funds.

Republican National Convention

President Donald Trump said on Twitter he is moving the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina after Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said he couldn’t guarantee that the planned Aug. 24-27 event in Charlotte could be held at full capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which is expected to host a conference call today, later said the public portion of the event, such as speeches from Trump and vice president Mike Pence, could be moved, while other aspects could remain in North Carolina.

Business Community:

Governor Wolf’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania:

On April 22, Governor Wolf announced his plan to reopen Pennsylvania, focusing on a regional decision making approach. Along with the previous standards the Governor announced last week, he highlighted that the data-driven decision making process will be done in consultation with Carnegie Mellon University.

You can review Governor Wolf’s Plan for Pennsylvania here.

The three color phases determine when regions are ready to begin easing restrictions on businesses, stay-at-home orders, large gatherings, child care and more. The three phases are red, yellow and green, with the entire state currently in the red phase. Movement between phases will be based on the population incidence rate above.

Red Phase:

The red phase singularly purpose is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures. There are currently 10 counties in Phase Red. The rest of the Phase Red counties will move to Phase Yellow on June 5.

  • Life Sustaining Businesses Only
  • Congregate Care and Prison Restrictions in Place
  • Schools (for in-person instruction) and Most Child Care Facilities Closed

Yellow Phase:

The stated purpose of the yellow phase is begin to power back up the economy, while maintaining social distancing while easing restrictions on certain businesses and travel. However, the Department of Health will maintain strict monitoring over public health data to contain COVID-19. Guidance for businesses in Counties in the Yellow Phase. There are currently 40 counties in Phase Yellow, however 8 additional counties moved to Phase Yellow, while 17 counties moved to Phase Green on May 29

  • Telework Must Continue Where Feasible
  • Businesses with In-Person Operations Must Follow Business and Building Safety Orders
  • Child Care Open with Worker and Building Safety Orders
  • Stay-at-Home Restrictions Lifted in Favor of Aggressive Mitigation
  • Large Gatherings Prohibited
  • In-Person Retail Allowable, Curbside and Delivery Preferable
  • Indoor Recreation, Health and Wellness Facilities (such as gyms, spas), and all Entertainment (such as casinos, theaters) Remain Closed
  • Restaurants and Bars Limited to Carry-Out and Delivery Only

Green Phase

The green phase should facilitate a return to a “new normal”, by easing most restrictions on stay-at-home orders and business closures. Strict adherence to CDC and Health department guidelines are required, and similar to the yellow phase, monitoring of public health data will continue. There are currently 17 counties in Phase Green. An additional 16 counties will move to Phase Green on June 5.

  • All Businesses Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines
  • Aggressive Mitigation Orders Lifted
  • All Individuals Must Follow CDC and PA Department of Health Guidelines

The standards previously highlighted by Governor Wolf:

  • Our approach will be data driven and reliant upon quantifiable criteria to drive a targeted, evidence-based, regional approach to reopenings in Pennsylvania.
  • We will put forth guidance and recommendations for employers, individuals, and health care facilities for assured accountability as we reopen.
  • Reopening necessitates that adequate personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing are available.
  • Reopening requires a monitoring and surveillance program that allows the commonwealth to be deploy swift actions for containment or mitigation.
  • Protections for vulnerable populations must remain steadfast throughout the reopening process, such as limitations on visitors to congregate care facilities and prisons.
  • Limitations on large gatherings unrelated to occupations should remain in place for the duration of the reopening process.

Guidance for Pennsylvania:

Critical Needs Portals:

With the application closed for the CWCA, please look into the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program or the Paycheck Projection Program.

You can find the application for the Paycheck Protection Program here.

You can find the application for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, here.

Press Releases:

Gov. Wolf: Department of Health Reaches COVID-19 Testing Goal in May, Continues to Increase Testing in Several Regions

June 03, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf announced today that the Department of Health reached its testing goals in May with more than 283,000 COVID-19 diagnostic test results reported to the department. The department achieved its 2 percent testing goal for the month by more than 11 percent.

In addition, beginning Friday, June 5, various Walmart and Quest Diagnostics drive-thru testing locations across the state will provide testing for residents living in areas with fewer testing sites. No COVID-19 testing will take place inside Walmart stores or Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Centers.

A soft launch of five drive-thru testing sites will begin on June 5. These sites will be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM to test up to 50 registered patients. Registration is required one day in advance.

You can read the full press release here.

Gov. Wolf Renews COVID-19 Disaster Declaration for State Response and Recovery, Stay-at-Home Order Ends June 4

June 03, 2020

Governor Tom Wolf today renewed the 90-day disaster declaration he originally signed on March 6 following the announcement of the first two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. The declaration was set to expire on June 4.

The emergency disaster declaration provides for increased support to state agencies involved in the continued response to the virus and recovery for the state during reopening.

Also today, Gov. Wolf announced that he would allow the amended stay-at-home order to expire at 11:59 p.m., June 4. The-stay at-home requirements were only in effect for counties in the red phase.

Read the amendment to the emergency disaster declaration here.

You can read the full press release here.

Department of Health Holds First Regional Contact Tracing Meeting in Southwestern Pennsylvania

June 03, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Health, along with a number of outside organizations, brought together stakeholders last week at the first southwest contact tracing consortium to discuss the contact tracing needs in southwestern Pennsylvania.

In the southwest region, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation helped quickly to mobilize the initial membership of the regional consortium and the department will continue to seek partners for the consortium. The initial attendees.

The meeting of the southwest consortium is the first regional meeting, and the department is working to set up consortiums in each of the six regions in the state.

Consortiums will work to assess the number of contact tracers needed in each area, help recruit contact tracers and ensure training and education is available, and coordinate information and data to ensure consistency within the region The consortiums will create a sustainable infrastructure that will support the growth of coordinated contact tracing efforts in each region, and will hopefully establish partnerships that could assist in other public health priorities moving forward. A regional approach grows existing community infrastructure and incorporates local knowledge, experience and connections.

You can read the full press release here.

Wolf Administration Outlines Preliminary Guidance for Phased Reopening of Schools

June 03, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) today said elementary and secondary schools in the state’s yellow and green phases may resume in-person instruction and activities beginning July 1 under a phased reopening approach that first requires schools to develop health and safety plans based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state Department of Health (DOH).

Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic, the preliminary guidance serves as a starting point for school leaders to consider in reopening preparations, and it will continue to evolve as further research, data and resources become available. Later this month, PDE will release additional guidance that outlines steps for school openings while addressing safe operations, teaching and learning and student wellness – with attention to equity throughout.

The two guidance documents released today provide a list of decisions that schools need to consider prior to reopening.

You can read the full press release here.

PA CareerLink® Expanding Virtual Services, Offering Limited On-Site Appointments for Job Seekers and Businesses

June 03, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – PA CareerLink® offices are increasing virtual services and offering limited in-person appointments for job seekers and employers in counties in the green reopening phase across Pennsylvania.  

Virtual services have been provided continuously for job seekers and employers since mid-March when statewide mitigation efforts began to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

To schedule an appointment for limited on-site services, please contact your local PA CareerLink® office. Find your county’s contact information by visiting www.pacareerlink.pa.gov.

You can read the full press releases here.

Department of Health Updates Dental Guidance for Treating Patients during COVID-19 Pandemic

June 03, 2020

Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania Department of Health today released an update to the dental health care guidance as part of the commonwealth’s phased COVID-19 reopening plan. This guidance allows dental health care providers the ability to safely provide oral healthcare, including routine cleanings.

Dental providers should follow protocols outlined by the CDC for all procedures. Providers should ensure they have the appropriate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies to support their patient volume. The appropriate level of PPE, according to CDC guidance, must be available for all dental care practitioners including dental hygienists prior to providing any dental treatment. Providers should regularly check CDC guidance when providing care as recommendations and guidance could change frequently. The full guidance can be found here.

You can read the full press release here.

This newsletter was prepared by Ridge Policy Group a lobbying firm that has clients in every industry, including education, health care, and trade.

Written by

Ridge Policy Group

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER

As a subscriber of our newsletters, you'll receive:

  • Bi-weekly updates on Congress, the Administration, and Pennsylvania government
  • Daily updates around COVID-19 as it relates to Congress and Pennsylvania government