• News New Blog Banner

  • Coronavirus Update: March 24, 2020

    APTA joins effort for stepped up NPE response by Congress; new template letter for telehealth; wound care considered "essential," and more.

    Practice Guidance

    March 24: APTA Joins Push for PPE, More Consistent Recommendations for Use
    A letter endorsed by 19 health care professional organizations not only urges Congress to step up efforts to supply providers with PPE, but to get CDC and other agencies on the same science-based page, and to take steps to ensure that shortages won't happen again.

    "We need proper support to care for patients safely and effectively," the letter states. "This includes clear, evidence-based protocols and highest level of protection in order to care for infected individuals as well as prevent the spread of the coronavirus in health care facilities and the community. Congress and the Administration must exhaust every option available to increase PPE production and prioritize distribution to frontline providers and health care facilities."

    March 24: New Coalition Connects Health Care Organizations With PPE Suppliers
    The PPE Coalition and the US Digital Response Team are collaborating on Project N95, connecting personal protective equipment manufacturers with state and local governments and health care providers and institutions who submit a request. According to their website, they hope to have millions of units available for distribution within the coming weeks.

    March 24: APTA Offers Template Letter to CMS Advocating for Telehealth for PTs, PTAs
    APTA has developed a template letter for you to use in advocating to CMS for Medicare coverage of telehealth furnished by PTs and PTAs to ensure that patients continue to have access to the rehabilitative care they need amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instructions are included at the top of the letter.

    March 24: Multiprofessional Group Including APTA Says Wound Care Is an Essential Activity
    The Alliance of Wound Care Stakeholders, a group that includes APTA, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Amputee Coalition, and others, issued a statement countering hospital decisions to shut down outpatient-based wound care departments as "non-essential" during the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Nonhealing wounds, left untreated and unmanaged, can result in significant medical issues including infection, sepsis, the need for limb amputation, and even death," according to the statement. "As a result many procedures provided by wound clinics are essential — not elective — to protect the health of patients and prevent an escalation of their disease."

    From the CDC

    March 23: CDC Study on Cruise Ship COVID Transmissions Finds Virus Present on Surfaces 17 Days After Last Contact
    Testing on the Diamond Princess, the Grand Princess, and other ships found SARS-CoV-2 present on some surfaces after passengers — some asymptomatic — had vacated the ship 17 days earlier.

    From CMS

    March 23: CMS Approves Medicaid Waivers in 11 States
    Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia have received section 1135 waivers on a range of requirements including prior authorization, provider enrollment, public notice mandates, and fair hearing request timelines.

    In the Media

    Health Care, Tech, Nonprofits Collaborate in COVID-19 Response
    A group of high-tech firms, large health care systems, nonprofits, and others are partnering to utilize data analytics to evaluate the effectiveness of community mitigation efforts, identify at-risk populations who need diagnostic testing, and optimize health care delivery and supply chain operations.

    Visit APTA's Coronavirus webpage for more information and updates.

    APTA Joins Push for PPE, More Consistent Use Recommendations

    A letter endorsed by 19 health care professional organizations not only urges Congress to step up efforts to supply providers with PPE, but to get CDC and other agencies on the same science-based page, and to take steps to ensure that shortages won't happen again.

    The federal government needs to not only do more to ensure that personal protection equipment is available to all health care workers, it needs to do a better job of providing consistent science-based advice on the use of PPE: That's the message APTA and 18 other health care professional organizations sent to Capitol Hill as the COVID-19 pandemic triggers shortages of crucial protective supplies.

    In a March 20 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, APTA and other organizations including the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and the American Occupational Therapy Association urged legislators to take steps to "ensure that personal protection equipment … is available to all health care systems, facilities, and providers to ensure safe working environments during the current COVID-19 pandemic and any future crisis."

    The letter doesn't simply address supply shortages, however. The organizations also press for "more definitive and aligned statements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about the transmission of coronavirus." Right now, the letter states, "the recent guidelines from both agencies differ on what masks or respirators are needed for health care providers."

    "Before any new guidance is released, the appropriate agency must have clear scientific evidence that the change in standards is proven to keep clinicians and their patients safe," the letter states, adding that "we urge Congress to include language in the next supplemental package to ensure the CDC communicates to the public the data-driven transmission science behind this decision."

    In addition for increased PPE availability and more consistent, science-based usage recommendations, the organizations also press for a list of additional actions by Congress, including mandating that a sustainable inventory of PPE be maintained at the Strategic National Stockpile, requiring that the Department of Health and Human Services develop better reporting rules around PPE use, and commissioning studies from the Government Accountability Office to review "root causes" of the current shortages as well as worldwide supply chain issues that could be improved in anticipation of future pandemics.

    According to Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of government affairs, the PPE letter is just one piece of the association's advocacy efforts around the coronavirus pandemic. Other efforts include grassroots communication efforts to increase telehealth opportunities for PTs and PTAs, and a push to press Congress for additional relief to physical therapy providers and patients.

    "In these extraordinary times, we need to not just react to current challenges but also be forward-thinking, looking at every possible avenue to ensure safety," Elliott said. "PPE is certainly one key element, but we're also keenly aware of opportunities to reduce transmission risk through new ways of thinking about providing care, including via telehealth. At the same time, we need to anticipate the potential harm this crisis could do to clinicians' livelihoods."

    Visit APTA's Coronavirus webpage for more information and updates.