COVID-19 Update
March 8, 2021

CMS Approves Amendment of Appendix K Waiver through March 31, 2021
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved New York state's request to amend Appendix K of the 1915(c) Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers on Thursday. The Appendix K Waiver was set to expire March 6, 2021. With this amendment, the waiver is now effective through March 31, 2021. 
Today, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) published a letter that details the approval of the Appendix K as well as the billing flexibility. The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) separately requested an extension of Appendix K waiver authority through and beyond the  public health emergency. CMS approval is anticipated before the end of the month. 

OPWDD has scheduled a webinar this Friday, March 8 at 11 a.m. Registration can be completed hereThis webinar will review the revised Appendix K, which appears to primarily address the circumstances under which billing unit flexibility applies for Day Habilitation and Site-Based Prevocational programs. This flexibility is apparently retroactive to the 10/14/21 sunset date, but focuses on providers required to close day programs in red and orange cluster zones, and those closed preemptively where COVID-19 positivity rates rose and/or quarantine was required, as evidenced in IRMA reporting to OPWDD. The targeted billing flexibility extends only during the red/orange zone closure period, or for a 14-day period in non-cluster circumstances.

We will discuss the Appendix K approval at our weekly management meeting this Wednesday. 

On Thursday, March 5, OPWDD shared data regarding the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, and deaths due to COVID-19 within the service system.
The following was shared and reflects data through March 3, 2021:
  • 9,631 people supported have been confirmed to have COVID-19
  • 6,858 of these people reside in an OPWDD certified residence
  • There have been 632 deaths relating to COVID-19
  • With 99% of sites reporting, in certified residential 72.5% of people supported have received at least one dose of vaccine, which is up 9.4% since 2/12/21
  • 10.3% of people supported have declined vaccination to date 
  • 22.3% of residential staff have received at least one dose, up 3.4%. 38.3% have declined vaccination. 
  • Staff in other waiver programs: 20% have received first dose and 18% have declined (based on 80% of programs reporting)
  • People supported living at home: 3.9% have received first dose
OPWDD has not yet supplied more detailed data regarding COVID-19 cases by setting. As a reminder, New York state maintains data on cases by county here.

Empire Pandemic Grant Program 
New York State will soon begin accepting applications for the Empire Pandemic Grant Program, which will provide a total of $29 million in direct funding to essential workers and first responders. Eligible individuals may receive up to $1,000 per household to reimburse out-of-pocket childcare, transportation, lodging, and other qualified expenses. The application has not been finalized, but we encourage Chapters to sign up here to receive notification once the relief fund launches. Please share this opportunity widely with staff as soon as applications open. The grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and funds will be expended as requests are made.

Updated CDC Guidance for Fully-Vaccinated Individuals
Effective today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their guidance for individuals who have received the COVID vaccine, as follows. 

Fully vaccinated people can:
  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physically distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
  • Take precautions in public, like wearing a well-fitted mask and practicing physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations 
The information serves as guidance from CDC. The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) will need to review, interpret and issue their own guidance. We reached out to OPWDD tonight, and the Office confirmed they are aware of the new guidance and will discuss with representatives of NYSDOH. The applicability of this guidance to our settings is not yet clear. Chapters should await additional guidance from the NYSDOH and OPWDD before making any changes to visitation at certified settings.  

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. 

Josh Christiana, Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations

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