Among the many resources on the CDC website is guidance designed to assist citizens in cleaning and disinfecting public spaces including your workplace, school, home, and business. Explore the CDC Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting. The decision tree and guidance may provide assistance as AT Act programs develop or modify operational plans as restrictions ease.
The CDC has also issued considerations for Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) at CDC Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) This might be a good resource for AT Act programs (and their subcontractors) located in colleges and universities.
The Administration on Community Living (ACL) has a website that will be continually updated throughout the course of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Several other federal agencies have dedicated web pages including the US Department of Education. Note in particular interim guidance relating to services to young children and students with disabilities.
The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-1 to help companies respond in the event of coronavirus in the workplace. The guidance was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
During spring and summer 2020, AT3/ATAP engaged state and territory AT Act programs about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report, AT Act Programs COVID-19 Response Summer 2020 provides insights into how the AT programs have adapted to meet the new demands of the COVID environment and safely provide services to individuals with disabilities of all ages including older adults.
Health Insurance Coverage
Because of the impact of this emergency on health insurance, it is important to review materials that relate to coverage for assistive technology devices and services.
In addition to information coming from international sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the federal government, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you should check with your state regarding issues like authorization for, delivery of, and funding for tele-rehabilitation services.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website has helpful information for AT programs to understand the waivers and flexibilities available to public programs for the COVID-19 emergency.
Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education’s Covid-19 Resources page includes guidance and policies related to elementary and secondary education, special education, postsecondary education, and other aspects of lifelong learning. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also continues to provide updated guidance for school settings.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
OCR has issued guidance reviewing legal standards and best practices for improving access to COVID-19 vaccination programs and ensuring nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Whether information is distributed via flyers, online information portals, or in person at vaccine distribution sites, there is a legal obligation that COVID-19 vaccination programs be accessible and free of discriminatory barriers that limit a communities’ ability to receive vaccinations and boosters. The new guidance ensures that entities covered by civil rights laws understand their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, laws requiring that federally assisted health care providers and systems ensure fair, equitable access to vaccines. Recipients of Federal financial assistance includes state and local agencies, hospitals, and health care providers administering vaccines and boosters.
The HHS OCR Guidance on telehealth identifies technologies that could be used for telehealth and those that cannot be used for telehealth, here is an excerpt from the guidance on the HHS website. Note that just because a telehealth service is permitted does not assure payment by public or private insurance payers. In addition, telehealth/telerehab providers representing licensed professions should check with their state’s respective licensing body.
Under this Notice, covered health care providers may use popular applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Providers are encouraged to notify patients that these third-party applications potentially introduce privacy risks, and providers should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using such applications.
Under this Notice, however, Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar video communication applications are public facing, and should not be used in the provision of telehealth by covered health care providers.
Covered health care providers that seek additional privacy protections for telehealth while using video communication products should provide such services through technology vendors that are HIPAA compliant and will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements (BAAs) in connection with the provision of their video communication products. The list below includes some vendors that represent that they provide HIPAA-compliant video communication products and that they will enter into a HIPAA BAA.
- Skype for Business / Microsoft Teams
- Zoom for Healthcare
- Google G Suite Hangouts Meet
- Cisco Webex Meetings / Webex Teams
- Amazon Chime
- Spruce Health Care Messenger
Note: OCR has not reviewed the BAAs offered by these vendors, and this list does not constitute an endorsement, certification, or recommendation of specific technology, software, applications, or products. There may be other technology vendors that offer HIPAA-compliant video communication products that will enter into a HIPAA BAA with a covered entity. Further, OCR does not endorse any of the applications that allow for video chats listed above.
Under this Notice, however, OCR will not impose penalties against covered health care providers for the lack of a BAA with video communication vendors or any other noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules that relates to the good faith provision of telehealth services during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
Administration for Community Living (ACL)
ACL’s Covid-19 Response website page provides up-to-date guidance on policies, legislation, funding and best practices.
- The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC), which is funded through ACL, is actively collecting NIDILRR grantee community publications on their Covid-19 Special Collections web page.
Sanitization/Cleaning of Phones and Electronics
While the CDC recommends you wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, it is harder to clean the other things that touch your face – especially your phone. When reviewing advice and products, note whether there is a claim to kill bacteria or viruses. Even if it is “only” going to take care of bacteria, it doesn’t hurt to clean your electronics!
Apple advice on how to clean your apple products.
PC magazine addresses “spring cleaning” for a variety of electronics, including headphones, phones, and tablets and laptops.
How to Disinfect Your Phone and Electronics From Viruses and Germs
And of course, refer to the archived AT3 webinar (November 6, 2019) on “basic” sanitization and cleaning procedures
Ultraviolet Radiation (UV)
The application of UV radiation in the health-care environment (i.e., operating rooms, isolation rooms, and biologic safety cabinets) is limited to destruction of airborne organisms or inactivation of microorganisms on surfaces. The effect of UV radiation on postoperative wound infections was investigated in a double-blind, randomized study in five university medical centers and the investigators reported the overall wound infection rate was unaffected by UV radiation, although postoperative infection in the “refined clean” surgical procedures decreased significantly (3.8%–2.9%). No data support the use of UV lamps in isolation rooms.
New CDC Study Confirms Effectiveness of UV-C Disinfection to Combat Harmful Pathogens
What are ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizers?
UV light is nature’s disinfectant, but can it kill coronavirus?
The challenges associated with the pandemic can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. The CDC offers healthy ways to cope with stress. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.
The AT3 Center offers helpful information in the “AT News and Tips” blog, AT for Managing Anxiety.
The AT3 Center webinar, Managing Social Isolation, Anxiety and Depression through the Use of Assistive Technology Tools, highlights tools that may be helpful in reducing stress.
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) has a variety of resources related to key areas of concern for people with disabilities in this national crisis. The NDRN website has links to topical briefs including issues related to transportation, housing, rationing of health care, incarceration, and special education. There’s also an accessible video guide (with captions available in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese) targeted at people in group homes, nursing homes, and other residential facilities.
Material for Families
State and Territory AT programs may be the only entity available to assist consumers with information particular to assistive technology devices and services. This may especially be true for families who rely on the schools for AT services for their children. PrAACticalAAC has a comprehensive compilation of materials to explain the virus (e.g. social stories); visual supports for handwashing; visual schedules (especially good to have if parents are suddenly home schooling!) and communication (sample boards; symbols; vocabulary).
PrAACtical Resources: Dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic