COVID-19 Breaking News

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  Information from the American College of Rheumatology Regarding Vaccination Against SARS-CoV-2

Posted September 11, 2020 at 9:30 AM ET

More than 165 vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 are under development worldwide with dozens already in human trials. It is likely that numerous vaccines will eventually be approved by the FDA for use in the United States, but limited supplies in the early stages may lead to the need for strategies to allocate these finite resources. This information from the ACR addresses vaccine development, allocation and patient education. View the Information Document   - New

 

  Updated Guidance from the American College of Rheumatology: Scarce Resource Allocation During the COVID-19 Pandemic - The Case of Hydroxychloroquine

Posted August 27, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET

The ACR has updated its guiding principles and recommendations regarding the allocation of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) during the COVID-19 pandemic. View the Guidance  - Updated August 26, 2020

 

  COVID-19 Clinical Guidance for Pediatric Patients – ACR Town Hall

Posted August 12, 2020 at 5:00 PM ET

In response to the recently published clinical guidance for pediatric patients in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACR hosted a virtual town hall for the rheumatology community on August 11 to review the recommendations. Jay Mehta, MD, MS, Chair, Pediatric Clinical Guidance Task Force, and David Karp, MD, PhD, ACR President-Elect, served as co-moderators for the discussion.
Watch Recording 

 

ACR COVID-19 Newsletter Archives

Breaking News Archives

Updated Guidance from the American College of Rheumatology: Reopening Strategies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated July 28, 2020 at 12:30 PM ET

This updated guidance from the ACR is intended for rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals to consider as they evaluate local conditions, design reopening procedures, monitor progress, and advise staff and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The updated guidance includes strategies for safe return of staff and patients to the clinic for a visit or to work following suspected or confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2. A test-based strategy is no longer recommended, except in certain cases. A symptom-based strategy is recommended, with a longer period recommended for those who had severe or critical COVID-19 or who are severely immune compromised. View Guidance   - Updated July 26, 2020

 

ACR Town Hall: COVID-19 Guidance for Your Community Practice

Posted July 14, 2020 at 6:00 PM ET

The ACR hosted a virtual town hall for the rheumatology community on July 13. Hear the latest on utilizing telehealth and its future for rheumatology, strategies for reopening clinics and the return of patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and tips for handling federal relief funds and reporting. Watch Recording  

 

ACR "Essential Eight" for Minimizing Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted July 10, 2020 at 2:30 PM ET

The ACR has created a patient-facing resource on the essential eight things you can do to minimize your risk and the risk to others during the COVID-19 pandemic. View Patient Flyer

 

HHS Opens Relief Payment Applications for Medicaid and CHIP Physicians and Organizations

Posted June 24, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched an application portal to distribute $15 billion in CARES Act Provider Relief Fund payments to eligible Medicaid and CHIP physicians and organizations. The payment will be at least 2 percent of reported gross revenue from patient care, and the final amount will be determined based on submitted data, including the number of Medicaid patients served. Eligible physicians and organizations have until July 20, 2020, to submit their application and report other necessary information, such as annual patient revenue data.

In its Frequently Asked Questions resource HHS provides these answers relating to the new application portal:

Why is there a new Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal?
Portal will initially be used for new submissions from Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers seeking payments under the Provider Relief Fund starting June 10, 2020. At this time, this portal will serve as the point of entry for providers who have received Medicaid and CHIP payments in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020 and who have not already received any payments from the $50 billion Provider Relief Fund General Distribution.

What is the difference between the first Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal and the Enhanced Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal for the Medicaid Targeted Distribution?
The first Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal was used for providers who received a General Distribution payment prior to April 24. These providers were required to submit financial information in order to receive approximately 2% of gross revenues derived from patient care.

HHS has developed the new Enhanced Provider Relief Fund Payment Portal for providers who did not receive payments under the previous General Distribution, including those providers who bill Medicaid and CHIP (e.g., pediatricians, long-term care, and behavioral health providers.)

Separately in the FAQs, HHS has also indicated it will delay the original July 10 deadline for providers’ first reports on their use of grant funds from the initial the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund, for the quarter ending June 30. In coming weeks HHS intends to release new guidance on the timing and content of required reports, and while the July 10 deadline is removed the agency does expect to require reports at a future time.

 

New Resource: COVID-19 Clinical Guidance for Pediatric Patients

Posted June 18, 2020 at 4:30 PM ET

The ACR has developed two new clinical guidance documents for pediatric patients in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, including for the care of children with pediatric rheumatic disease, and for the management of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and hyperinflammation during COVID-19. All recommendations are based on current knowledge and will be revised as circumstances and evidence evolve. Read the guidance summaries

 

New Law Eases Requirements for Paycheck Protection Program Loan Recipients

Posted June 6, 2020 at 12:30 PM ET

On Friday, June 5, the President signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (HR 7010) into law. This Bill contains eight pivotal provisions which modify how Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers can maximize forgiveness of the loans by adding more flexibility and extending important timeframes. This document details the eight provisions and how these updates impact borrowers. Read the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act Summary

 

Clinical Guidance for Adult Patients with Rheumatic Diseases

Updated April 29, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

The ACR has published clinical guidance for the care of adult patients with rheumatic diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic. All recommendations are based on current knowledge and will be revised as circumstances and evidence evolve. COVID-19 Clinical Guidance for Adult Patients with Rheumatic Diseases

 

HHS Announces Additional Allocations to Relief Fund

Updated April 27, 2020 at 6:00 PM ET

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced details on remaining allocations of the Provider Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. An additional $20 billion has been designated for general distribution to Medicare facilities and providers impacted by COVID-19. Unlike the initial tranche of funding from the HHS, most eligible practices will need to complete the application before funds are approved and sent to their bank account. HHS Announces Additional Allocations to Relief Fund 

 

New Resource: ACR Guiding Principles for Decision Making: In-Person Urgent vs. Virtual Non-Urgent Medical Care

Updated April 26, 2020 at 12:15 PM ET

The ACR recognizes the importance of physical distancing in an attempt to minimize patients’ risk of exposure to COVID-19. Yet many rheumatology patients also have diseases or take medications that require intensive monitoring, heightening the need for careful discernment of routine, urgent, and emergent care for rheumatology patients. The ACR offers guidance about scenarios, common in day-to-day rheumatology practices, that might reasonably be considered urgent and in which a patient might be advised to seek face-to-face medical care, based on an individual patient’s unique situation, rather than a virtual encounter. Read the guidance document - Updated May 9, 2020

 

COVID-19 CARES Act Package Additional Funds Summary

Updated April 22, 2020 at 5:00 PM ET

On Tuesday, the Senate passed legislation injecting additional funds in the CARES Act. The House is predicted to vote to pass the package on Thursday. Included are the following:

  • $321 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, including $60 billion for small lenders and community banks to facilitate increased access to the program
  • $25 billion for COVID-19 testing
  • $60 billion for disaster relief programs through the Small Business Administration
  • $75 billion for hospitals and providers: “…to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for necessary expenses to reimburse, through grants or other mechanisms, eligible health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus.”

The ACR will continue to follow this new funding as policymakers determine the methods and timing of distribution. ACR/ARP members can reach out directly to Congress to let lawmakers know providers need financial support tailored for our needs to preserve patient access to care.

 

ACR Guiding Principles for Scarce Resource Allocation During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated April 22, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

The ACR offers recommendations regarding the allocation of several resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. All recommendations are based on current knowledge and are subject to revision as circumstances evolve.

 

Health and Human Services Emergency Fund Disburses First $30 Billion to Practices

Updated April 21, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is disbursing the first $30 billion of the $100 billion Congress allocated to hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These distributions are reflective of the advocacy requests made by the ACR, the AMA, and other physician societies in response to challenges being faced during the COVID-19 emergency. HHS has confirmed these relief funds are emergency payments, not loans, to healthcare providers and they will not need to be repaid.
Read the ACR's updated guidance about the CARES Act provider aid disbursement - Updated April 20, 2020

 

New Patient Resources

Updated April 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

The ACR has developed guidance for rheumatologists and rheumatology professionals talking to patients who have questions about how and when to access rheumatology care during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those patients who have questions about remote or telehealth visits with their rheumatology provider.

 

New Resource: Advice for Talking to Patients About Shortages of Hydroxychloroquine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Updated April 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

Patients who take hydroxychloroquine are facing medication shortages. Providers who care for rheumatology patients are facing disparate policy recommendations for prescribing and allocation of antimalarials. The American College of Rheumatology regularly updates guidance on allocation of hydroxychloroquine for the benefit of its members and our patients. The following are suggested points that rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals may wish to consider when discussing this difficult issue with patients. Advice for Talking to Patients About Shortages of Hydroxychloroquine - Updated May 2, 2020

 

Stimulus Relief Aid for Rheumatology Practices; Details and How to Apply Now

Updated March 31, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

Rheumatology practices are being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The sustainability of practices is being threatened and patient access to care is being reduced. The Paycheck Protection Program within the newly enacted stimulus package provides forgivable federal loans to small businesses, including physician practices, with no more than 500 employees. Funds can be used to help retain workers, maintain payroll, and cover rent/mortgage/utility expenses.
Find out if your practice is eligible, how to apply, and other important details in the ACR’s guidance for practices - Updated April 24, 2020
Read the AMA's summary of all relevant CARES Act provisions

 

Congress Passes Stimulus Package with Help for Rheumatologists

Updated March 31, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET

On March 27, the House passed a $2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act, which was sent to them by the Senate on March 25 after lengthy negotiations. This legislation is designed to bolster the economy and support the country’s healthcare infrastructure and providers in battling COVID-19.

The ACR was excited to see certain policies included in the package, which is on its way to the President's desk to be signed in to law. Such policies include:
  • $16 billion to replenish supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies.
  • Prioritizing and expediting FDA applications that could help prevent or mitigate a drug shortage.
  • Supporting the healthcare workforce by reauthorizing Title VII of the Public Health Service Act which supports the training of practitioners. This also includes the pediatric subspecialty loan repayment program the ACR has advocated for through grassroots and member Hill visits.
  • Cancelling payments for federal student loan borrowers with federally-held loans and preventing the accrual of interest on those loans through September.
  • $500 billion in small business relief, which may be applied for by eligible medical practices.
  • $150 billion for healthcare providers and hospitals most affected by COVID-19 to be used to support the workforce, supply them with PPE and testing supplies, and construct facilities.
  • Prohibiting patient cost sharing for COVID-19 testing or treatment.
  • Promoting the use of telehealth technologies.

The ACR is continuing to review the details and application of this important legislation. Read the AMA's summary of relevant positions

 

Important Statement: ACR Responds to Trump Announcement Regarding Use of Chloroquine as Treatment

Posted March 20, 2020

The American College of Rheumatology acknowledges President Trump's directive to the Food and Drug Administration asking them to 'fast track' potential treatments for COVID-19, including the antimalarials chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Rheumatologists have extensive experience using these drugs and understand their safety and efficacy, including for our patients with rheumatic disease who take these medications on a regular basis. We hope that pragmatic clinical trials of these drugs can be done quickly to determine how well they work, who should get them, and at what point in the illness. If the demand for these drugs increases rapidly, we urge pharmaceutical companies to continue to provide these medications to mitigate drug shortages.

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