HHS COVID-19 Update for Business Group Members

United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., provided a special update for employer members of the Business Group.

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On Thursday, March 26, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., provided a special update for employer members of the Business Group.

Key Takeaways

Congress and the Administration should:

  • We remain under national social distancing guidelines, which means that all Americans, including the young and healthy, should be working and engaging in schooling from home when possible, unless they work in a critical industry.Since last Thursday’s webinar, the Administration extended the end date of these guidelines at least through the end of April. Many states have implemented lengthier end dates or more stringent stay-at-home orders.
  • This means that, on top of national guidelines, at least 265 million people in at least 32 states, 80 counties, 17 cities, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are being urged to stay home.For a full breakdown of state-by-state guidelines, please click here.
  • Interim Guidance from the CDC for businesses and employers to plan and respond to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) can be found here.
  • A $2 trillion stimulus package has been passed by Congress and signed by the President.This graphic provides a quick reference of the funding breakdown. Please join a Business Group webinar on Friday April 3, 2020,for a more in-depth discussion of employer-specific impacts.
  • Deputy Secretary Hargan expressed appreciation to employers who have expanded family and sick leave policies to support employees. He also solicited outreach from companies involved in manufacturing or supply chains with any requests for assistance.

Following HHS’s remarks, a question-and-answer session was facilitated by Ellen Kelsay and Tiffany McCaslin. See below for a summarized overview. If you would like any additional information or have questions, please contact Tiffany at mccaslin@businessgrouphealth.org.

Q:  What are the key takeaways for large employers from the $2 trillion stimulus package?

The ability of employees to use health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for over-the-counter medication and telehealth services is a flexibility that has been granted, and by extension, helps employers. Additionally, there was an authorization of emergency funding for medical supplies, such as ventilators and masks, and to develop treatments and vaccines.

Q: What metrics might be used to make the determination that social distancing restrictions should be loosened, and what will return to normal life, school and work look like – i.e., will it be gradual or will there be a ramp-up?

Public health leaders will determine, based on data, when the social distancing restrictions can be loosened, and the return to “normal” could be a ramp- up. This means that there could be a return to work as an initial step, but a recommendation to continue avoiding conferences and large meetings could stay in effect for a longer period of time. It is important to keep in mind that this should not be looked at as a “one-size-fits-all” approach. There will be geographic and age-related considerations that come into play. CDC is working on guidelines for a variety of systems, such as reopening schools and returning workers to businesses; those will be available in the near-term.

Q: What is the potential for a return or a resurgence of COVID in the future, particularly in the fall, and do we have any good data on potential reinfection rates?

We know that respiratory viruses in general form a seasonal pattern, but we don't know for certain whether this virus is going to follow that pattern. We do expect a future recurrence of COVID-19 in the U.S. but anticipate being able to prepare for that over the spring and summer months for more targeted public health responses. However, we don't know the duration of protective immunity that this virus will induce in individuals. We do, however, anticipate that it will have some durability, whether for 1 year, 2 years or 3 years.

Additional Business Group COVID-19 Resources:

Please click here to view a full list of resources

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Employer Response and Planning

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): FAQ For Employers

Employer Role in Supporting Working Parents During COVID-19 Pandemic

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