Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Announcements

July 22, 201

Rural Health Clinics Receive $100 Million for COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced that the funds will go to more than 1,980 Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) to help residents understand the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.  The funds will be administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) through the Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program.

COVID-19 Pubic Health Emergency Renewed. Effective July 20, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration for another 90 days.

NIH Reports on COVID-19 Variants. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that the more that SARS-CoV-2 spreads, the greater the chance that its genetic material will change or mutate, and create new variants or strains.  As it passes from person to person, the virus builds up mutations.  Currently, there are four known mutations, known as variants of concern, with the highly transmissible Delta variant dominant across the country.  The COVID-19 data hub created last year by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services indicates that, as of July 15, new cases across the country were up nearly 70 percent over the previous week; deaths were up 26.3 percent.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 cumulative death rate in non-metropolitan areas has exceeded that of metropolitan areas since December 2020.   

HHS Reviews State Medicaid Telehealth Policies Before and During the Pandemic. While as many as 47 state Medicaid programs were paying for some form of care via telehealth before the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, data show that services increased more than 20-fold between February and April 2020.  Rates declined after April but still remained far above pre-pandemic level.  This issue brief from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) examines how the use changed during the pandemic and identifies selected changes in telehealth policy related to Medicaid. 

CDC: Acceptability of COVID-19 Vaccination Among Adolescents and Parents of Adolescents. In its latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed teens aged 13-17 years and parents of youth aged 12-17 to determine their intent to vaccinate during April 15 – April 23 of this year, prior to vaccine authorization for this age group.  Among parents of unvaccinated adolescents, 55.5 percent reported they would “definitely” or “probably” have their adolescent receive a vaccination.  Among adolescents surveyed, 51.7 percent reported they would “definitely” or “probably” receive a vaccine. 

CDC Provision Drug Overdose Death Counts for 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) present a visualization of reported and predicted provisional counts of deaths due to drug overdose occurring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  While provisional counts are incomplete due to pending investigation into causes of death, the data show a 29.4 percent increase in overdose deaths for the year.

Request for Information: HHS Seeking Input on Advancing Sensitivity Toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders – due August 17. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) seeks input from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and AAPI-serving organizations to inform the development of guidance describing best practices for advancing cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the context of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 response.

2020 Transportation Trends. The National Aging and Disability Transportation Center identifies issues affecting the availability of accessible transportation for older adults and people with disabilities.  The report identifies “an innate strength” in rural culture that uses a neighbor helping neighbor strategy, and includes examples of programs underway in rural areas to address transportation needs.

Call for Abstracts for the National Telehealth Research Symposium – August 2. Hosted by the Society for Education and the Advancement for Research in Connected Health (SEARCH), the National Telehealth Research Symposium will showcase connected health efforts and research for telemedicine, telehealth, eHealth, mHealth, and other healthcare technologies.  The symposium will be held virtually on November 8-10, 2021.  SEARCH is seeking submissions for podium presentations and posters in categories that include research, policy, education, and state of the art.