COVID-19 Update
December 16, 2021
Indoor Masking Guidance Effective December 13
On December 10, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released guidance clarifying requirements of the indoor mask mandate. The guidance restates expectations previously shared for Article 28 facilities and P-12 school settings. It also addresses the recent statement by Governor Hochul directing mask wearing while in any indoor public place for communities with substantial and high transmission. Any indoor public area that requires proof of vaccination as a condition of entry is exempt from this mandate. This clarification of the Governor's statement delivered Friday defines an indoor public place is any indoor space that is not a private residence, so the coverage is very broad. NYS DOH also released an FAQ that provides additional details on the mandate.

Updated NYS COVID-19 Vaccination Program Guidance
Revised DOH guidance released December 10 consolidates all available information about vaccination eligibility in New York state. The most recent update reflects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that individuals 16 and 17 years of age who receive the Pfizer vaccine can receive a booster dose six months after their most recent vaccine dose. The guidance also notes that COVID-19 vaccines may be administered without regard to timing with other vaccines. This will be useful to keep in mind as Chapters are scheduling flu vaccines.
Updated COVID-19 Immunization Screening and Consent Form
DOH published an updated COVID-19 screening and consent form, which addresses expanded eligibility as well as receipt of a dose of a non-FDA authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine. This is a template form that is optional for use by the vaccinator. Chapters should review it to be familiar with the information they may be asked for when supporting individuals in consenting to a COVID-19 vaccine dose.

CMS Omnibus COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Interim Final Rule (CMS IFR) Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the preliminary injunction issued by the US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. That preliminary injunction had halted enforcement nationwide. The Court of Appeals reversal of the injunction again applies the mandate to 26 states, only applying the injunction to the 14 states that brought the case to the court. New York State was not one of those 14 states. As of today, it remains unclear how the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) will proceed with enforcement of the rule in states not covered by an injunction.

We did connect with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities on this topic and they shared that no further information has yet been released by CMS and they are not issuing anything interpreting the court decision at this time. CMS issued a memo on December 2, 2021 that directed the suspension of survey enforcement pertaining to the CMS IFR while the preliminary injunctions were being reviewed by the courts. This memo remains published to their website and will likely need to be amended as the next step in the process. The original date of compliance for employees to have a first dose of a vaccine was December 6, 2021. This will also need to be addressed by CMS. We will continue to monitor for updates and provide them as soon as they are available.

OPWDD Statewide COVID-19 Data
Today, OPWDD shared their latest statewide COVID-19 data regarding the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths due to COVID-19 within the service system.

As of December. 15, 2021:

  • 3,457 people supported are confirmed to have had COVID-19
  • 8,682 of these people reside in a certified residential facility
  • There have been 713 deaths relating to COVID-19
  • 20,270 staff are confirmed to have had COVID-19

Vaccination data is also available for the five distinct cohorts of individuals and staff for which OPWDD is collecting information. The following have received at least one vaccine dose as of December 11, 2021.

  • 92.9% of individuals living in certified residential settings (99% of programs reporting)
  • 55.7% of the total staff working in certified residential settings (99% programs reporting)
  • 48.3% of the total staff associated with day and waiver services, excluding residential and family care (with 84.4% programs reporting)
  • 61.7% of Care Managers (with 100% reporting)

OPWDD has been publishing statewide data regarding COVID-19, which is regularly updated and can be viewed here. As a reminder, New York state maintains data on cases by county and can be viewed here.

OPWDD Workforce Stabilization Initiatives Attestation and Webinar
On November 16, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the Appendix K revision to the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities' (OPWDD) Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver. Similarly, the OPWDD Disaster State Plan Amendment (SPA) has been revised and is anticipated to receive federal approval. Both the Appendix K revision and the Disaster SPA revision delineate Workforce Stabilization initiatives intended to address critical Direct Support Professional and Family Care staffing shortages. 

The Workforce Stabilization funds will be paid to Providers in the form of Supplemental Payments, for distribution to eligible employees. Eligible employees are defined as those Direct Care Support Professionals and Family Care Providers that are reported under the job position title code series of 200 (200-299) in the Provider's Consolidated Fiscal Report (CFR) filings and are further defined as eligible based on the individual requirements of each of the Workforce Stabilization initiatives.

There are four Workforce Stabilization initiatives. Those initiatives are:
  • COVID Service Payment
  • Vaccination Incentive Payment
  • Longevity Payment
  • Retention Payment

The specifics of each initiative were described in the OPWDD Webinar, "Webinar on Workforce Investments and the Appendix K," held on December 2. A recording of the webinar is available here. Additional and comprehensive information regarding the Workforce Stabilization initiatives is provided in the "Workforce Stabilization Initiatives Overview and Provider Attestation Form" document. A summary of that information is outlined below.

  • Attestation Submittal In order for providers to receive any Workforce Stability Supplemental Payments, a signed attestation must be submitted to OPWDD no later than January 9, 2022. The attestation must be signed by the President of the provider's Board of Directors, or equivalent, and the provider's Chief Executive Officer (Executive Director). The attestation demonstrates the provider's acceptance of the terms and conditions for receipt and distribution of the Supplemental Payments funding. The signed attestation should be submitted to:

  • Survey The funding for the COVID Service and Vaccination Incentive Payments will be based on a survey completed by the provider. That survey will be completed in Alchemer. The link to the Survey will be sent to providers upon OPWDD's receipt of a signed attestation from the provider. The survey must be completed by all providers that want to make an application to receive COVID Service and/or Vaccination Incentive Supplemental Payments funding.

  • Recoupments Any funds determined by OPWDD not to have been distributed to employees in accordance with the distribution parameters set forth in the Provider's signed Attestation may be subject to recoupment.

  • Technical Webinar A Technical Webinar that will discuss the Attestation document, the Alchemer Survey and related questions and answers will be held on Monday, December 20, 2021 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm. If you have a question(s) regarding Supplemental Payments or the related Attestation or Survey that you would like addressed at the Webinar, such question(s) must be sent to no later than Noon on Friday, December 17, 2021. You can register for the webinar here.

This and all related updates will be cataloged on The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.
CONTACT: Josh Christiana, Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations
This email was sent to:
  • President Jack Kowalczyk 
  • Board of Governors 
  • Chapter Presidents
  • Executive Directors 
  • Chief Operating Officers
  • Chief Financial Officers  
  • HR Directors 
  • PR Directors 
  • Quality & Compliance Staff 
  • Residential Directors
  • Joint Committee on Quality & Compliance 
  • Guardianship Coordinators 
  • State Office Staff