Weekly Updates

1/12-1/25 Updates

 

Vaccine Administration

New research finds vaccination of health care workers greatly reduces both risk of infection and likelihood of developing symptoms from COVID-19.

New Jersey is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for health care workers and workers in high-risk settings.

The US Supreme Court has announced federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates for health care workers may continue, even as the court strikes down mandates for other sectors of the economy.

Vaccine Administration

(01/19/22) Reducing the Rates of Household Transmission: the Impact of COVID-19 Vaccination in Healthcare Workers With a Known Household Exposure
New research published in the journal Vaccine examines the relationship between COVID-19 vaccination in health care workers and exposure to COVID-19 in their households. Two key takeaways from the research include that unvaccinated health care workers had a 667% increased risk of infection from household transmission compared to fully vaccinated, and only half of COVID-19-positive health care workers who were fully vaccinated were symptomatic.

(01/19/22) New Jersey Announces COVID Vaccine and Booster Mandate for Health Care Workers and High-risk Settings
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has announced health care workers in the state must begin their first shots of vaccination for COVID-19 by January 27, 2022, with a requirement of being fully vaccinated by February 28, 2022. Health care workers in New Jersey will also be required to receive a booster shot, with no testing option as an alternative.

(01/18/22) CMS Extends COVID-19 Vaccine Deadline for Health Workers in 24 States
Following the recent Supreme Court decision upholding a federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for health care workers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has announced an extension to the deadline for health care workers in the 24 states involved in the legal to be fully vaccinated. This deadline move from February 28, 2022 to March 15, 2022 will not impact health care workers in the 25 states and District of Columbia that were not involved in the legal challenge.

(01/14/22) Supreme Court Halts COVID-19 Vaccine Rule for US Businesses
The United States Supreme Court decided to block the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for large employers while also deciding to allow the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate for most health care workers to continue.

Health Workforce Shortages

Health systems are finding it difficult to attract new workers after 2 years of COVID-19 pandemic conditions, with thousands of open positions throughout the US.

New research finds that stress from the pandemic has led many providers to consider leaving the profession entirely.

The Omicron variant continues to place massive strain on US hospitals, with increased hospitalizations exacerbating existing staffing shortages.

Health Workforce Shortages

(01/19/22) COVID-19 Is No Longer the Biggest Issue Facing Hospitals. Staffing Is
This opinion piece published in STAT covers challenges brought up by health system CEOs and CFOs at the 40th Annual JP Morgan Health Care Conference: health care staffing issues are especially difficult given the demands of the profession and related burnout from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently there are thousands of open positions at health care facilities throughout the United States, with a need to recruit, accelerate education, and seek other methods to meet the consequences of labor shortages.

(01/18/22) Medicine’s Great Resignation? 1 in 5 Doctors Plan Exit in 2 Years
This article from the American Medical Association discusses the findings of a recent study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings covering the stress and work intentions of health care workers in the United States as they relate to working during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many providers are considering reducing hours or leaving the profession entirely, the article suggests some opportunities to help improve morale among providers, including supporting child care and ensuring access to confidential mental health services.

(01/14/22) Some States Have Fewer Than 10% of ICU Beds Left As Health Care Staffing Shortages Complicate Care
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has increased demand for intensive care unit beds in health care systems throughout the United States. Less than 15% of intensive care unit beds are available in nineteen states, with the national guard and other federal emergency teams responding in multiple states to help with both medical and non-medical tasks, increasing workforce capacity.

(01/13/22) ERs Are Overwhelmed As Omicron Continues to Flood Them With Patients
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States continue to be a major challenge for health systems throughout the nation. As reported by NPR, the apparent lack of severity of the Omicron variant is being offset by the contagiousness of the virus, with emergency departments taking the brunt of the waves of patients while already short on staff, making a bad situation worse.

(01/13/22) ERs Are Overwhelmed As Omicron Continues to Flood Them With Patients
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States continue to be a major challenge for health systems throughout the nation. As reported by NPR, the apparent lack of severity of the Omicron variant is being offset by the contagiousness of the virus, with emergency departments taking the brunt of the waves of patients while already short on staff, making a bad situation worse.

(01/13/22) A Cascade of Omicron-driven Shortages Puts US Hospitals in a Bind
Shortages of medical supplies to treat COVID-19 are being exacerbated by shortages in staff to attend to patients and lack of bedspace due to rising infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the United States. This article from STAT covers how shortages of both supplies and staff are leading to worse patient outcomes and frustration for both patients and providers.

Telehealth

Expanded telehealth regulations as part of COVID-19 emergency declarations were found to contribute to fraudulent health care expenses.

Telehealth utilization reached a new low for the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2021.

Expanded telehealth regulations as part of COVID-19 emergency declarations were found to contribute in part to fraudulent health care expenses.

A new report finds certain states have retained barriers to telehealth utilization within their states following expansion during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telehealth

(01/14/22) Research Explores How Scammers Take Advantage of COVID-19
This article, published in Stanford Medicine’s Scope blog, highlights some ways the emergency regulations meant to improve access to care at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have been manipulated to cause billions of dollars in fraudulent health care expenses. Providers billing for telehealth visits that never happened as well as prescribing unnecessary treatments are among the many fraudulent activities reported.

(01/12/22) COVID-19’s Influence on Information and Communication Technologies in Long-term Care: Results From a Web-based Survey With Long-term Care Administrators
COVID-19 in the United States has led to lockdowns for long-term care (LTC) facilities, resulting in loss of in-person contact with social ties for LTC residents. A new study examining ICT access and use in LTC facilities during the pandemic found that over half of the LCT facilities surveyed
were able to acquire ICTs for their residents to use during the pandemic.

(01/10/22) Telehealth Use Reached Pandemic Low in October, Per Tracker
Telehealth use reached a COVID-19 pandemic low in October, according to date from non profit New Health. After months of decline followed by two months of growth in August and September, telehealth utilization dropped almost 7 percent in October in all US regions except the Northeast, which has seen a large increase of hospital admissions and COVID cases in the fall and winter months.

(01/05/22) Many States Hit Hard by COVID-19 Limit Telehealth Practice, Report Finds
This article covers a new report finding that states such as California, New York, and Washington retained barriers to providing remote care even as they dealt with high cases of COVID-19. Following initial regulatory flexibility on the provision of telehealth services, states returned to piecemeal regulation, with some states joining compacts allowing for care across state lines and others retaining barriers for providers outside of the state.

Health Workforce Resiliency

Practice-based Research Networks (PBRNs) may allow for more responsive research to COVID-19 and other challenges.

The pandemic has highlighted many issues relating to the US health care system, with many fearing the approach of a breaking point.

New research examines the experiences of Black and Latinx health care workers in support roles throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health Workforce Resiliency

(01/20/22) The Watershed Of Practice-based Research: Lessons and Opportunities From The COVID Pandemic
Practice-based Research Networks (PBRNs) are promoted as perfect vehicles for learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic in this piece published by Health Affairs. The authors provide recommendations for changing PBRNs from a reactive system to a more responsive system, as the COVID-19 pandemic provided significant challenges to the funding and operation of these networks.

(01/19/22) The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Breaking the US Healthcare System – but That’s Only a Symptom of the Underlying Disease
In this Forbes article, Dr. Stephen Thomas, an infectious diseases physician at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, discusses how the pandemic makes apparent the many overarching problems in America’s healthcare system. Dr. Thomas argues we are heading towards a breaking point for American healthcare “and without an immediate and meaningful intervention, the damage will be significant and take years to undo.”

(01/18/22) Experiences of Black and Latinx Health Care Workers in Support Roles During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study
This research article published in PLOS One investigates the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black and Latinx health care workers in support roles. The authors conducted two group interviews and eight individual interviews with health care workers between December 2020 and February 2021. Participants included members of a high-risk workforce and communities that bore a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s brunt. Overall, the interviewees reported disruptive changes in job duties and positions. These changes were even exacerbated by the persistent dread that they might get COVID-19 and infect their family members. Health care workers with direct patient care reported having less opportunity to engage with patients.

(01/11/22) You’d Expect Health Care Workers on the COVID Frontlines to Be Tested Regularly. You’d Be Wrong
This opinion piece published in STAT highlights concerns over the lack of regular testing for health care workers and the impact this has on the resiliency of the health workforce as a whole. Currently the health workforce in the United States is experiencing high rates of burnout and shortages of staff, with new guidelines recommending even health care workers with COVID-19 who are symptomatic return to work in some situations.

(01/08/22) CA Health Care Workers Raise Concerns Over New State COVID-19 Protocols
The extremely infectious omicron variant has increased the number of persons admitted to California hospitals, prompting the California Department of Public Health to release new recommendations to ensure that there is enough staff to manage the surge. According the new guideline, health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 will no longer be required to isolate or test negative and will be able to return to work immediately if they are asymptomatic. Advocacy groups say the move is a critical error that puts patients at danger.

(01/06/22) Hochul Proposes $10B to Bolster Health Care Workforce in New York
New York governor Kathy Hochul has announced plans to invest $10 billion to improve the health workforce in New York State. This investment seeks to grow the health workforce by 20 percent over the next five years, and includes $4 billion meant to support wages and bonuses for health care workers exhausted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(01/04/22) We Must Practice What We Preach: A Framework to Promote Well-being and Sustainable Performance in the Public Health Workforce in the United States
Research during the COVID-19 pandemic has found an increase in anxiety, depression, and burnout among health care professionals. This article provides a framework to “prioritize the well-being and sustainable performance of the public health workforce to foster resilience and mitigate stressors.”