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Alabama schools soon required to disclose COVID-19 numbers online

All school districts in Alabama will soon share information online about the number of positive cases of COVID-19 among students, staff and faculty members, according to Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey.

The new dashboard is important for two reasons, Mackey said: “So people take it seriously, and so they don’t overreact.”

“We want to be fully transparent so that people know that there are cases in the community,” Mackey said. Knowing the level of spread, he added, helps people to continue to do the things needed to mitigate that spread.

The dashboard, in the works since late August, will be published on the Alabama Department of Public Health website and will include the number of positive COVID-19 cases in each school system, but will not be broken down by school.

Sharing the information publicly can also squelch rumors, too. “Sometimes these rumors get out that there are 100 people positive with it in the school,” Mackey said, “and there are actually three.”

Some school districts are already providing that information to parents in a dashboard format, through social media or directly to parents and community members through other channels.

Mackey said ADPH has had some technical difficulty getting the dashboard online and that the state department of education is now helping in that effort. He could not say when it will be online.

On Monday, Alabama’s chief medical officer Dr. Scott Harris told AL.com he is “pleasantly surprised” that schools have not been seen to be the source of major coronavirus outbreaks. “I give the schools that credit that they’re doing everything they can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.”

“We’re very happy with the way things have turned out in school,” Mackey said. In a sampling of school districts statewide, he said, fewer than 1% of students and faculty have tested positive for COVID-19.

“In most cases, when we do go back and do the contact tracing,” Mackey said, “we find that patient zero, they got it from outside the school.”

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Trump Required Walter Reed Staff To Sign Nondisclosure Agreement In 2019

KEY POINTS

  • During a trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump allegedly required both physicians and nonmedical staff to sign an NDA
  • It’s still unknown whether the president required the Walter Reed staff to sign a nondisclosure in his most recent visit
  • Doctors tending to patients are prohibited by federal law from disclosing patients’ personal health information without consent

President Trump has required personnel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign a nondisclosure agreement before treating him. 

During a trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump required both physicians and nonmedical staff to sign an NDA. At least two doctors at Walter Reed refused to sign the NDAs and were not permitted to have any involvement in the president’s care, NBC News reported. 

It’s still unknown whether the president required the Walter Reed staff to sign a nondisclosure in his most recent visit. 

Doctors tending to patients are prohibited by federal law from disclosing patient’s personal health information without consent. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects patients’ confidential health information, which raises the question of why Trump would ask staff members at Walter Reed to sign an NDA.

“Any physician caring for the President is bound by patient-physician confidentiality guaranteed under HIPAA, and I’m not going to comment on internal procedures beyond that,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

Transparency about Trump’s health has been a major concern since the president tested positive for COVID-19. Trump, his administration, and the physicians attending to him painted a murky picture of how the president is recovering. Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, has refused to answer key questions, such as when Trump last tested negative for the virus and whether the illness has caused him to develop respiratory problems.

Conley continues to cite HIPAA when dodging questions on the president’s health. “We’ve done routine standard imaging. I’m just not at liberty to discuss,” Conley said on Monday. 

Conley’s written updates on Trump’s health have included the note “I release the following information with the permission of President Donald J. Trump.”

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Nursing Home Inspectors In The D.C. Region Aren’t Required To Take COVID-19 Tests : NPR

Staff and vendors in nursing homes have to get regular COVID-19 tests. State nursing home inspectors don’t.

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Maryland, D.C. and Virginia are not mandating COVID-19 tests for the inspectors examining conditions in local nursing homes, public health spokespeople from all three jurisdictions confirmed. The lack of testing for the inspectors, nursing home leaders say, stands in contrast to state and federal testing requirements for nearly anyone entering a nursing home these days.

For the past several months, inspectors were focused on completing federally mandated infection control surveys to evaluate long term care facilities’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the inspectors’ findings have resulted in citations and fines for nursing homes found to have inadequate screening, social distancing or sanitizing practices.

Nursing home leaders are worried that inspectors are entering facilities without knowing their COVID-19 status, said Allison Ciborowski, the president of LeadingAge Maryland, a long-term care industry group.

The inspectors work on behalf of the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services but are employed by state jurisdictions. Ciborowski said CMS hasn’t required or recommended that inspectors be tested. Maryland, Virginia and the District have chosen to follow that lead.

“It’s a concern for our members just because they are really trying to carefully track the spread of the virus,” she told WAMU/DCist. “It seems strange that the agency that is citing nursing homes if they’re not appropriately testing staff is not testing the surveyors that are going in to fight those kinds of things.”

Inspectors may not be required to undergo coronavirus testing, but almost everyone else going in and out of nursing homes is. CMS and state governments regulate how frequently long-term care facilities should be testing staff, residents and regular outside visitors. For much of the summer, CMS required nursing home staff to be tested for COVID-19 every week (in Maryland, weekly testing is still the case).

When inspectors enter facilities, they are expected to comply with temperature checks, answer screening questions, and wear masks, gloves and gowns. Once inside, they walk around the facility, but do not enter sick resident rooms.

Last month, CMS revised its testing guidance, tying the frequency of staff testing to the positivity rate of the county where the nursing home is located. The definition of who counts as staff is still broad: it includes “employees, consultants, contractors, volunteers and caregivers who provide care and services to residents on behalf of the facility, and students in the facility’s nurse aide training programs or from affiliated academic institutions,” according to the guidance.

Missing from that long cast of characters: inspectors. And while fewer than half of all states are requiring inspectors to get tested despite the omission in CMS guidelines, Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are not.

Spokespeople for the Maryland Department of Health, Virginia Department of Health and D.C. Health pointed to a number of reasons for not requiring tests. Virginia Department of Health spokeswoman Tammie Smith emailed the following