COVID-19 Update June 17, 2020

Notes from Governor Cuomo’s Daily Briefing:

Day 109 of COVID-19
COVID-19 Data:
-1,479 total hospitalizations.
-17 lives lost yesterday – 15 in hospitals, 2 in nursing homes
-Yesterday, the state conducted 59,341 tests for COVID-19.
– 567 people tested positive for COVID-19 (0.96%).
-White House models are projecting a higher amount of deaths by August.
– In April, the estimated amount of deaths by August was 60,308.
– As of June 15th, the estimate amount of deaths is now 149,690.
-Gov reiterated that other states without phased reopenings are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases.
-Gov said other states could spread the virus to NY.
-Gov stressed that increased testing is not the cause of increases in COVID-19 cases.
-Westchester and Rockland County will enter Phase III on Tuesday (6/23).
-Long Island will enter Phase III on Wednesday (6/24).
-NYC will enter Phase II on Monday (6/22).
-Gov announced today he will sign legislation protecting the rights of health care workers who speak out against improper patient care or workplace safety.
Gov announced this Friday will be the last daily briefing.
Nursing Homes:
-Gov said concerns over nursing home deaths are primarily a Republican talking point.
-Gov reiterated that during the outbreak, the state followed the guidance of the federal government.

MSSNY President, Dr. Bonnie Litvack, MD, Testifies Before Assembly Committee on Small Business About Devastating Impact of COVID-19 on Community Physician Practices 

MSSNY President, Dr. Bonnie Litvack, MD, testified before the state Assembly Committee on Small Business, on Wednesday, June 17th, about the devastating impact that COVID19 has had on community physician practices, across New York State, and federal efforts to help small businesses. The Committee is chaired by Assemblyman Albert Stirpe and the hearing was a joint event with the Assembly Committees on Ways & Means, Agriculture, Banks, Office Of State-Federal Relations, Task Force on Food, and Farm & Nutrition Policy.

Among the range of important issues that Dr. Litvack raised, was that the COVID19 crisis has tested the medical profession like never before, and how the physician community has rallied to confront the once in a century enemy. She also focused on the devastating financial impact of the crisis for community physicians and how the COVID19 outbreak exacerbated several, already startling trends affecting physicians’ like excessive liability insurance costs and ratcheting down on payments, to physicians, by health insurance companies.

Dr. Litvack also shared some key takeaways from two statewide surveys that MSSNY conducted of its members, over the last two months, among them that 79% have seen a reduction of more than 50% in their volume of patient visits and more than a quarter have had to lay off, or furlough, more than 50% of their staff. She also noted the significant challenges physicians have faced with obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE), and how that is adversely impacting physicians’ ability to re-open their practices to their patients.

She also urged a number of different policy changes, including requiring health insurers to help cover the significantly increased costs of PPE, maintaining expanded Telehealth coverage rules, and additional funding from the federal government to prevent Medicaid cuts and provide relief to hard-hit community physician practices.

MSSNY’s Governmental Affairs Team will continue to work on these issues and keep members updated.


Governor to Sign Legislation Expanding “Whistleblower” Protections
Governor Cuomo announced during his press conference today that he was going to sign into law legislation passed by the State Legislature (S.8397-A, Savino/A.10326-A. Reyes) to provide New York healthcare employees with greater “whistleblower” protections to reduce the risk of employers penalizing employees for filing complaints against them.

New York’s Labor Law provides healthcare employees with some whistleblower protections, but does not specifically address disclosures to the public made via new platforms like social media. The legislation provides medical professionals with greater legal protections against employer retaliation regarding public reports raising concerns with workplace safety conditions.

Crain’s Health Pulse Reports on State Medical Society Joint Letter Urging Congress to Help Physician Practices
A group that includes the Medical Society of the State of New York is urging Congress to continue to press for federal funding to help community physician practices keep their doors open.

Additional funds in the next stimulus package are critical to stemming some of the staggering financial losses incurred during the Covid-19 crisis, the group said. The medical societies of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Ohio are also part of the group.

The medical societies said Tuesday that they are seeking federal relief, including a restart of the Medicare Advance Payment Program and dedicated grant funding for community physician practices without size restrictions or employee thresholds. The group pointed to a recent survey from MSSNY that found that nearly three-quarters of physicians had seen a greater than 50% drop in revenue.

“So far community physicians have only received a microscopic portion of the billions in grant funding allocated by Congress in the Cares Act, which has mostly benefited large health systems,” the group said in a statement. “While our hospitals must be protected and strengthened, so too must our community physicians, [on] whom our patients depend.”

In addition to dedicated funding, the group called for the next stimulus bill to include provisions to ensure expanded telehealth coverage rules are maintained. Hazard pay and student loan relief for those who have served on the front lines during the crisis are also a priority.

The medical societies further turned their attention to how insurers could help.

“We also urge that the market-dominant health insurers who faced a significant drop in claim submissions ensure that their windfall profits are shared with their contracted physicians, including through support for the huge increase in personal protective equipment costs,” the group said. —(Crain’s Health Pulse, 6/17)

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Politico New York Reports MSSNY’s Support of NYSDOH Guidance on Elective Surgery Time Frame for Coronavirus Testing
POLITICO New York (6/16, Young, Eisenberg) reports MSSNY President Dr. Bonnie Litvack praised the state health department’s “guidance on elective surgeries, which changed the time frame in which a patient must have received a negative [SARS-CoV-2] test prior to a non-emergency procedure from three to five days.” Dr. Litvack said, “This change is essential because of the difficulty many physicians and patients were having with obtaining and receiving the results of a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of a planned elective surgery.”

MSSNY Statement on U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling on Title VII Cases
“The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) applauds the U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that federal workplace discrimination protections apply to LGBTQ+ individuals.

“As physicians, we believe that workplace discrimination can lead to negative health outcomes, and therefore, LGBTQ+ individuals must be protected from any and all discrimination.

“MSSNY members played key roles in the passage of AMA policies over the last two years that led to the amicus brief the AMA wrote to the Supreme Court, urging it to confirm that discrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 cover sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Statement Attributable to:
Bonnie Litvack, MD
President, Medical Society of the State of New York
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SBA and Treasury Announce New PPP EZ Forgiveness Application
Today, the U.S. Small Business Administration, in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, posted a revised, user-friendly Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application implementing the PPP Flexibility Act of 2020. In addition to revising the full forgiveness application, the SBA also published a new “EZ” version of the forgiveness application applying to borrowers who:

  • Are self-employed and have no employees; OR
  • Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; OR
  • Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees
    by more than 25%

Interim Guidance for Pools and Recreational Aquatic Spray Grounds During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency
NYSDOH issued interim guidance for the public and private owners and operators of pools and recreational aquatic spray grounds, including but not limited to cities, villages, towns, campgrounds, children’s camps, day cares, hotels, assisted living facilities, schools, colleges, universities, mobile home parks, homeowners’ associations, and apartment complexes. This guidance does not apply to private homeowner’s pools. For owners and operators that also provide other activities on premise (e.g. food service, retail, etc.), they must consult and adhere to guidance set forth on the New York Forward website as it applies to their operations.

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Governor Cuomo Announces Visitors Will Be Allowed to Return to Hospitals and Group Homes this Week
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced visitors will be allowed to return to hospitals and group homes across New York starting this week. Cuomo said visitors would be allowed at hospitals on Tuesday, and group homes certified by the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities can begin accepting visitors on Friday. “This was always a balance of public health versus the personal relationships and people who are in hospitals who desperately want to see loved ones and loved ones who want to see people in hospitals,” said Cuomo at this daily press briefing.

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MSSNY Helpline for Physicians Experiencing COVID-19 Related Stress 518-292-0140