COVID-19 Update
December 22, 2020

FDA Approves Moderna Vaccine
On Saturday, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Moderna's request for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As with the Pfizer vaccine, the FDA developed a fact sheet for recipients and caregivers. The vaccine-specific fact sheet must accompany the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) informed consent form. 
NYSDOH Guidance to OPWDD on Moderna Vaccine Prioritization
NYSDOH published several guidance documents addressing the prioritization of the Moderna vaccine. Guidance documents have been issued to hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and OPWDD, and an announcement from OPWDD can be found here
The guidance documents establish a vaccine prioritization and allocation framework based on guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The NYSDOH directed OPWDD to follow the guidance when prioritizing workforce vaccination. 
Hospitals and FQHCs are required to set aside vaccine for use by OPWDD. A schedule of vaccine administration will be established beginning December 23. Providers will be granted access to the scheduling system. Prioritized populations will receive the vaccine at hospitals or FQHCs. 
The guidance to OPWDD includes criteria for identifying and ranking facilities and job titles in an effort to establish vaccine prioritization. All workers who meet the criteria must be included, regardless of job title.
OPWDD met with the Provider Association today to address the recent approval of the Moderna vaccine and the NYSDOH guidance. OPWDD was joined by representatives from the NYSDOH. They reviewed the guidance document and fielded questions. Noteworthy points from the meeting are outlined below.  
  • The guidance documents apply to the statewide administration of the  Moderna vaccine. The administration of the Pfizer vaccine is covered under the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program. We detailed this program in our December 11 COVID-19 Update.
  • NYDSOH emphasized that the guidance is changing rapidly as additional information is being received from federal partners. 
  • An initial amount of vaccine has been allocated for OPWDD agencies. Weekly reordering will be completed based on uptake. 
  • Agencies will be prioritizing the populations that are scheduled for vaccination. There is no expectation that agencies prioritize employees first.
  • The NYSDOH consent form will be electronically available at the location of vaccination. However, it is also acceptable to have the consent form available ahead of time. OPWDD is continuing to work on guidance regarding the informed consent process.
  • Notification to 414 facilities that are eligible for the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program is forthcoming. 
OPWDD Temporarily Suspends Routine Survey Activity
The Arc New York has continued to advocate with OPWDD to suspend routine Division of Quality Improvement survey activity. Today, OPWDD announced that they will be suspending routine Site-Based and Person-Centered Review survey activity. They will continue to monitor the data surrounding COVID-19 cases as they decide when to resume survey activity. 
CDC Vaccine FAQ Update
On Sunday, December 20, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised their Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document. 

The FAQ addresses several important and commonly asked questions about getting vaccinated and vaccine safety. Chapters should regularly check the CDC FAQ. The information within is updated regularly as additional vaccine studies are completed and nationwide vaccination occurs. The FAQ acts as a compliment to the CDC's "Vaccine Information for You and Your Family," which can be viewed here
Template Letter and FAQ for The Arc New York Families
The Arc New York developed a template letter to families about the vaccination program and a Frequently Asked Questions document, which addresses questions of particular interest to the families we support and offers additional resources in a single location. These are optional tools to support Chapter communications as we prepare for vaccination roll-out, and do not supplant current guidance. 

Media Coverage
The Times Union interviewed Kirk Lewis for an article published yesterday about the impact of therapeutic leave and retainer day cuts on providers and families, particularly during the pandemic. The Buffalo News published President Jack Kowalczyk's Op-Ed calling for vaccine prioritization, and New York State of Politics covered New York Disability Advocate's (NYDA) appreciation of the state's decision to prioritize residential staff and people we support in the vaccination plan. Recent press also recognized the challenges of and celebrated the response to COVID-19 by Mountain Lake Services and The Arc Madison Cortland

House and Senate Pass COVID-19 Emergency Relief Plan
Congress approved a $900 billion pandemic relief plan, which is scheduled be signed by President Trump today. Although the omnibus bill includes direct stimulus payments to many, it excludes "adult dependents" from being eligible to receive payments. Additionally, dedicated Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAPincreases for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), and paid leave for all family caregivers were not included in the final package.

The Arc of the United States released a statement detailing the need for continued advocacy on these issues.

With the recent passage of the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Plan, the paid leave provisions of the Families First Corona Relief Act has been extended through 3/31/2021. A chart outlining for these leave provisions interplay with the NYS COVID Sick Leave benefits can be found here.

CMS Extends Appendix K Waiver End Date 
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance intended to help states restore regular Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) operations after the end of the public health emergency. This will allow New York state's OPWDD Appendix K waiver flexibility to extend an additional six months and provide a smoother transition following the pandemic. 

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, Associate Executive Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations

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