State Workforce Strategies

States are addressing the workforce challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are links describing their efforts.

(02/24/21) State Launches Portal to Connect Health Workers With Jobs
Colorado has launched an online portal to help connect health care workers with jobs in the state. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown need for improving the strength of the public health workforce and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hopes this portal may help fill as many as 100 positions.

(02/10/21) House Democrats Propose Multibillion-dollar COVID-19 Relief Package
House Democrats are proposing a multibillion-dollar COVID-19 relief package that includes a large investment in public health, which experts say has been underfunded for years. Included in the democrats proposal is 7. 5 billion dollars to the HHS for the public workforce and grants to state and local health departments to hire more staff, including community health workers, contact tracers, nurses and epidemiologists.

(01/21/21) South Dakota Governor Looks to Make Telehealth Coverage Permanent
An article outlining South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s plans to permanently extend emergency telehealth rules enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/10/21) Governor Cuomo Announces Proposal to Expand Access to Telehealth for All as Part of 2021 State of the State
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a proposal to expand access to telehealth for all New Yorkers by making permanent and further expanding many of the pandemic-related expansions. Telehealth use has increased dramatically following changes to regulation to ensure reimbursement and efforts to keep providers and patients safe from COVID-19 infection.

(01/08/21) Massachusetts Grants Hospitals Flexibility with Nurse Staffing Ratios
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has announced hospitals with less than 20% capacity can apply for exemption to state mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in an effort to meet the demand imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/04/21) Cuomo Threatens Fines for Providers That Don’t Use Vaccines Quickly
New regulation from the New York State Department of Health was announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding the need of health care providers within the state to utilize all their vaccine allocations within 7 days or risk fines and loss of future vaccine allocations. During a press conference, it was announced that less than half of all vaccines distributed thus far have been used.

(01/04/21) Massachusetts Governor Signs Law Safeguarding Telehealth Coverage
Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts has signed a law to make permanent many of the telehealth-related regulations put in place to enable better access to virtual treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. This new bill will require permanent rate parity on certain health services and an expanded scope of practice for some providers, among other provisions.

(01/04/21) Supporting Health Care Competition in the Era of COVID-19: 3 Legislative Models for States
This post to the Health Affairs blog provides some recommendations on ways for states to target legislation to improve competition and bring down costs in the era of COVID-19. These recommendations include bans on anticompetitive provider contract clauses, implementing certification of public advantage laws, and modifying scope-of-practice laws for providers.

(12/30/20) California Is Overriding Its Limits on Nurse Workloads as COVID-19 Surges
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge in California, nurses are being required to take on as many as 50% more patients at a time. California is the only state that has mandated limits on nursing workloads, but these limits have been waived in order to meet the demands of COVID-19.

(12/19/20) ‘I Failed’: Operation Warp Speed Leader Takes Responsibility for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Confusion
Governors of multiple states have complained of receiving fewer COVID-19 vaccines than originally promised from the federal government. The leader of Operation Warp Speed, General Gustave Perna, states he takes responsibility for communication issues and that there should be no further issues with production or distribution of the vaccines.

(12/18/20) Oregon Health Insurers Agree to Keep Paying for Telehealth Through June 2021
Oregon’s Department of Consumer and Business Services has announced an agreement with major insurance plans in Oregon to continue coverage for telehealth services at least through June 2021, after the state experienced rapid growth in telehealth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

(12/16/20) VA Is Increasingly Leaning on Contract Nurses As COVID-19 Cases Surge
The federal Veterans Affairs Department is hiring tens of thousands of workers, including contract nurses, in order to meet demands of surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including infection and hospitalization of VA staff. Even amid the hiring surge there are still tens of thousands of vacancies within the VA system, with employees and groups representing them detailing the strain.

(12/07/20) Murphy Indicates He Could Make Info on COVID Outbreaks Among Hospital Staff Public
Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has announced the state may soon provide the public with information regarding COVID-19 outbreaks among hospital staff. Currently it is optional for hospitals to release this information.

(12/02/20) Strained Wisconsin Hospitals Asking Staff to Return to Work During Quarantine
Hospitals in Wisconsin are resorting to requesting staff to return to work earlier in their quarantine process after potential exposure to COVID-19. The change to protocol comes as 40% of hospitals in Wisconsin are reporting critical staffing shortages and are reaching critical capacity.

(11/30/20) Governor Cuomo Announces Winter Plan to Combat COVID-19 Surge in New York State
New emergency hospital procedures have been announced from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. These procedures are encouraging hospitals to prepare to boost workforce capacity through bringing in retired health care workers, as well as coordinating transfers for patients to other facilities statewide.

(11/30/20) California Urges Hospitals to Test All Workers for Virus
New guidance released by the California Department of Public Health urges all acute care hospitals to test all staff members for COVID-19 weekly, beginning the week of December 7. All health care workers deemed to be high risk must be tested, including doctors, nurses, students, volunteers, administrative workers, and food service workers in a hospital setting, regardless of their status as paid or unpaid.

(11/27/20) COVID-19 in Illinois Updates: Here’s What’s Happening on Thanksgiving Weekend
This article covers the expectations and provides updates on the current surge of COVID-19 and plans for addressing the pandemic in Illinois. The Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health expects cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will surge in the next week or 2 following the Thanksgiving holiday.

(11/24/20) Asymptomatic Health Care Workers With COVID-19 Allowed to Continue Working in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma State Department of Health has announced health care workers who have tested positive with COVID-19 but are not experiencing symptoms of the disease will be allowed to continue working at hospitals and long-term care facilities. This follows recent moves and considerations across the United States to address health care workforce shortages.

(11/18/20) States Are Getting Ready to Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines. What Do Their Plans Tell Us So Far?
This issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation investigates how prepared states are for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. The brief looks at the the priorities for distribution of a vaccine as well as which providers will administer the vaccine and how the data on vaccine use will be collected and reported.

(11/13/20) Northeast Governors to Meet to Coordinate on Coronavirus Surge
The governors of the northeastern states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are meeting to discuss ways to align COVID-19 response plans between their states. New York and New Jersey have already begun aligning some regulations to address spikes in COVID-19 infection in recent days.

(11/13/20) As Cases Soar, Massachusetts Is Better Prepared to Handle Coronavirus Surge, Baker Says
As Massachusetts experiences a rise in hospitalizations and cases of COVID-19, Governor Charlie Baker has announced the planned reopening of several field hospitals previously opened in the spring. Hospitals are also planning to convert 400 acute care beds to intensive care unit beds to help meet demand.

(11/12/20) ‘At the Breaking Point’: Utah Shatters Single-day COVID-19 Record With 3,919 New Cases, 9 Deaths
Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, announces actions taken in response to the recent uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19 being experienced in the state. A mask mandate, restrictions in gathering, and increasing capacity for testing are all means announced to help keep hospitalizations down and preserve intensive care unit capacity.

(11/11/20) Ohio Governor Warns Hospitals Could Be Overwhelmed With COVID-19 Cases in ‘A Few Short Weeks’
Ohio Gov Mike DeWine discussed how the state is on track to lose its ability to provide emergency care in just a few weeks. Cases have quadrupled in the past month and DeWine shows concern on several fronts for how the state will be able to handle things if this trend continues.

(11/11/20) North Dakota Lets Healthcare Workers With COVID Stay on Job as Record Surge Strains Hospitals
North Carolina is seeing 60% more hospitalizations from COVID-19 than just four weeks ago and hospitals are struggling to keep up. This article dives into various perspectives on how the state is managing the frontline workers, the risks of allowing asymptomatic but COVID-positive nurses to keep working, and what these workers would to see happen at the government level.

(11/11/20) Wisconsin Health Official Warns State Nearing ‘Tipping Point’ on COVID Hospitalizations
According to this article, the COVID-19 caseload in Wisconsin is as bad as the severe wave seen early on in New York City. The chief medical officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services gives specific data and talks about how overcrowding/understaffing is already causing problems for patient care.

(11/10/20) Most States Aren’t Ready to Distribute the Leading COVID-19 Vaccine
ProPublica has published a review of state distribution plans for the leading COVID-19 vaccine, based on an announcement this week on early success from Pfizer. The investigation finds that most states, especially those with large rural populations, will find difficulty distributing the vaccine based on the current storage and transportation requirements to maintain the vaccine effectiveness.

(11/06/20) Governor: New Mexico in ‘Extreme Crisis’ With COVID-19
The Governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has announced the state is in “an extreme crisis” addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and will have difficulties meeting the staffing demands to conduct adequate testing and treat hospitalized patients.

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