COVID-19 and the Health Workforce 2/24-3/9

2/24-3/09 Updates


Vaccine Administration

Debate continues over both state and federal vaccination mandates for COVID-19, as other COVID-19 related restrictions are lifted.

Providers and patients have questions over the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and booster shots.

Despite outreach, providers in many states are seeing Medicaid patients with lower vaccination rates against COVID-19 compared to patients with private insurance.

Vaccine Administration

(03/03/22) Murphy Delays COVID Booster Mandate for NJ Health Workers, Prison Guards
After the earlier deadline expired on Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an order extending the deadline for health care workers to get a COVID booster shot to April 11. This order also extends the deadline for people working in prisons, group homes, and high-risk congregate care settings until May 11.

(03/02/22) In Symbolic Vote, Senate Rejects Vaccine Mandate for Health Workers
The United State Senate has passed legislation seeking to roll back the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers, in an effort considered symbolic with little chance of passing the House of Representatives or being signed by the President. The debate over vaccination mandates continues even after court decisions have allowed the mandates to stay in effect.

(03/01/22) J&J-Vaxxed, mRNA-Boosted, and Pondering a Third Shot
This article from Kaiser Health News highlights the changed narrative regarding the view of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. While initially promoted as a good option for the population, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has become less common in the United States over the course of the pandemic, with providers and patients alike confused on how to combine it with booster shots of other vaccines.

(02/28/22) From Alabama to Utah, Efforts to Vaccinate Medicaid Enrollees Against Covid Run Into Obstacles
Despite increased outreach efforts, Medicaid enrollees are getting vaccinated at far lower rates than the general population, according to data from several sites. The result is that Medicaid enrollees, who are far more likely to be sicker than those with private insurance, are at much higher risk of hospitalization or severe illness.

Health Workforce Shortages

Poor working conditions is a major reason for shortages of nurses throughout the US, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals in the US continue to turn to international nurses to help meet staffing needs.

Health Workforce Shortages

 (03/06/22) Two Years Into the Pandemic, Healthcare Workers Reflect on the Challenges and Rewarding Moments
Another COVID-19 wave is sweeping across hospitals. Despite the fact that Omicron cases are declining, staffing shortages continue to impose strain on health-care systems. This article contains interviews with doctors and nurses who describe how the two-year pandemic has affected them. Thousands of healthcare employees are quitting from their jobs. As baby boomers retire, nurses are departing, causing severe shortages in hospitals and nursing school programs.

(02/28/22) Many Mass Hospitals Are Short-staffed. The Culprit May Not Be a Shortage of Nurses
Although many Massachusetts hospitals are short staffed, there are more licensed nurses now in almost every category than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The shortage is not because of lack of nurse but lack of nurses willing to work under the current pandemic conditions. Retaining nurses and addressing burnout is now a top priority.

(02/28/22) Hospitals Turn to International Nurses to Fill Staffing Gaps
Hospitals nationwide are filling nursing shortages and staffing strain experienced by the COVID-19 pandemic, by bringing in foreign workers. As of January 24 in the US, around 1,000 nurses were arriving monthly from African nations. The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment reported on February 11 that thousands of foreign-born nurses are waiting on visas so they can start jobs in the US.


The Department of Veterans Affairs reveals how they prepared for and scaled up to meet demand for telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth use increased amidst the surge in the omicron variant in late 2021.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have indicated some pandemic-era changes to reimbursement for telehealth services will remain.


(03/08/22) How the VA Laid the Groundwork for a Pandemic-fueled Telehealth Spike
This article from Healthcare IT News highlights how the United States Department of Veterans Affairs worked to prepare for and scale up to meet demand of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some legislative work from as early as 2017 enabled the Department of Veterans Affairs to respond to the need for remote access to health care in thousand-fold usage increases.

(03/07/22) Telehealth Use Increased Amid Omicron as 2021 Drew to a Close
New data shows there was an 11% increase in telehealth use from November 2021 to December 2021 as cases of COVID-19 surged due to the Omicron variant, based on analysis of claims data. COVID-19 remained among the most common telehealth diagnoses throughout the US.

(03/05/22) CMS Greenlights Teletherapy and Signals Support for Future Telehealth Services
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revised its approach to telehealth services. In the CY 2022 Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule published in November 2021, CMS responded to the steep increase in the use of telehealth during the pandemic by announcing two regulatory changes to promote wider use of telehealth: extended reimbursement timeframe and relaxed criteria for mental health disorders.

Health Workforce Resilience

Phase 4 of the COVID-19 provider relief funding has been announced to providers facing revenue loss from the pandemic.

Health Workforce Resilience

(02/28/2022) HHS to Distribute $560M in Phase 4 COVID-19 Provider Relief Funds
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will distribute 560 million to 4,100 providers who faced revenue loss during the pandemic as part of the third batch of Phase 4 COVID-19 Provider Relief. The money will also help providers serving vulnerable populations.