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COVID-19 Updates

October 13, 2020 — 12:00 p.m.

For the latest COVID-19 numbers, go to the DHEC website. SCHA continues to host calls with DHEC to address the concerns of the state’s hospitals and health systems. The next COVID-19 update call with DHEC is scheduled for Thursday, October 15 at 1:00 p.m. If you are an SCHA member and would like to be added to the call or email update, please send an email to subscriptions@scha.org.

Vaccine Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will oversee vaccine distribution in the United States through a network of vaccine providers, each of which will be required to sign a Vaccine Provider Agreement and follow detailed procedures for distributing the vaccine and reporting back to the CDC. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has advised hospitals that are interested in becoming a vaccine provider to contact COVIDProviderEnrollment@dhec.sc.gov. The information gathered will be used for planning purposes and does not guarantee that a facility will become a provider or receive vaccine when it becomes available. Learn more about the vaccine development process here.

Preparing for School with the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative

As children across the state return to school, many have been curious about the potential for a pediatric COVID surge or a surge as a result of children returning to school. In an effort to prepare for either possibility, SCHA has consulted with leaders from the South Carolina Children’s Hospital Collaborative (SCCHC), the state children’s hospital association. Read what we’ve learned here.

Bed Reporting

SC hospitals have now been transitioned to a new HHS TeleTracking platform to provide their COVID-19 data to the state and federal governments. Importantly, when reporting information about staffed beds into TeleTracking, the data should represent beds that are currently staffed. The bed utilization rate that is reported to state and federal partners is calculated by dividing your “total inpatient occupied” beds by your “total inpatient” beds. If your hospital is reporting more staffed beds than are currently staffed, the hospital is inaccurately portrayed as having more availability than it actually has.

Additionally, beds that are part of your surge workflow may also be included if they are currently staffed. If beds such as psych, L&D, rehab, and bassinets are not a part of your surge workflow, they should not be included. As a reminder, hospitals are required to report daily, including weekends. Facilities report their information each day to HHS by way of TeleTracking, and that same reporting is also provided to DHEC. Click here to view DHEC’s TeleTracking report.

Bed Surge Planning

SCHA has been working closely with DHEC, the Emergency Management Division (EMD) and the National Guard to develop a surge plan for South Carolina. Learn more here.

Testing

DHEC has launched a testing site map that easily and clearly identifies COVID-19 testing sites around the state. Clicking on a testing site icon provides the facility name, address, hours of operation, contact phone number and additional details. Testing sites are also listed under the map for easy viewing. View the updated map at scdhec.gov/covid19testing.

In addition, DHEC continues to update its list of mobile testing clinics as these events occur across the state. Mobile testing clinics are available at scdhec.gov/covid19mobileclinics.

Lab Developed Tests

Hospitals wanting to conduct their own Lab Developed Test for COVID-19 may do so after submitting the appropriate paperwork, including five negatives and five positives, to the FDA. DHEC can assist with sample validation, and approval from the FDA is not required to begin testing. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Atwell Coleman, Director of DHEC’s Public Health Laboratory at colemaaa@dhec.sc.gov.

Visitor Policies

Hospitals and health systems across South Carolina are adjusting their visitor’s policies to adapt to COVID-19. Many facilities are implementing a limited visitors policy to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

COVID-19 Emergency Declaration

The federal government is taking aggressive actions and exercising regulatory flexibilities to help healthcare providers combat and contain the spread of COVID-19. CMS is empowered to take proactive steps through 1135 waivers and rapidly expand the Administration’s aggressive efforts against COVID-19. As a result, these blanket waivers have been made available to healthcare providers. The waivers are retroactively effective as of March 1, 2020; the use of this waiver authority does not require any notice to CMS.

Guidance for Alternate Care Sites

CMS has provided updated guidance on EMTALA requirements related to COVID-19 that provide for the establishment of alternate care sites on hospital campuses, or through off-campus, hospital-controlled sites. All hospitals should contact DHEC (acc-healthreg@dhec.sc.gov) to confirm the placement or deactivation of an alternate care site. 

Waste Management

The CDC has determined that medical waste generated in the treatment of COVID-19 patients and patients under investigation be managed in accordance with routine procedures. There are no additional packaging or transportation requirements from the Department of Transportation for regulated medical waste or sharps. Stericycle has updated coronavirus-related packaging guidelines for regulated medical waste and sharps.

Stay connected to Stericycle’s Coronavirus Knowledge Center at https://stericycle.com/coronavirus

The CDC also has a Q&A section dedicated to coronavirus waste management in a healthcare setting.

Staffing

Aya Healthcare, in partnership with Qualivis, has enacted an emergency preparedness and rapid response staffing unit to assist facilities in planning and caring for increased patient census and/or low core staff availability due to COVID-19. While this is a significant resource for hospitals for covering shifts, know that the rapid response service is available at a premium rate. Because the assignments require quick start dates, are short in duration, and include working in a potentially high-risk environment, hourly rates are higher than typical temporary staffing assignments. If you need additional staffing resources and are a current Qualivis customer, reach out to your account specialist. If you are not currently a Qualivis client, contact Sherry Kolb at 803.609.6862.

SCHA has been coordinating with DHEC to inventory and potentially deploy members of the Public Health Reserve Corps (PHRC) to assist hospitals with temporary staffing needs to support the COVID response. The PHRC is a volunteer group of health professionals coordinated by DHEC to help serve the state’s public health needs. The volunteers consist of registered nurses, advanced practice providers, EMT/paramedics, respiratory therapists, etc. If your hospital could benefit from the temporary resource of this group of volunteers, please contact your DHEC regional coordination center and/or the DHEC Regional PHRC volunteer Coordinator. More information is available here.

Communications Tools

SCHA, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and South Carolina Medical Association have launched  an effort to persuade the public to limit potential exposure to COVID-19. As coronavirus cases continue to rise in South Carolina, we are also seeing a significant increase in hospitalizations and want the public to understand the best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. The “Slow the Spread” public service campaign will begin airing on TV and on social media in advance of the July 4th holiday weekend. In addition, a website, slowthespreadsc.com, will be updated regularly with useful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As your facility responds to COVID-19, use your website and social media to educate the public. Tell your story and update your community on any changes in operations at your facility.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

SC Department of Health and Environmental Control

If you would like to be added to DHEC’s email distribution list for updates on COVID-19, please send your contact information to media@dhec.sc.gov. If you have any questions or concerns related to your facility’s ability to respond to COVID-19, please send an email to the SCHA Disaster Team at scdisaster@scha.org.