COVID-19 UPDATE (updated 1/10/22):
As part of its ongoing efforts across many channels to expand Americans’ access to free testing, the Biden-Harris Administration is requiring insurance companies and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests, so people with private health coverage can get them for free starting January 15th. The new coverage requirement means that most consumers with private health coverage can go online or to a pharmacy or store, buy a test, and either get it paid for up front by their health plan, or get reimbursed for the cost by submitting a claim to their plan. This requirement incentivizes insurers to cover these costs up front and ensures individuals do not need an order from their health care provider to access these tests for free.
Beginning January 15, 2022, individuals with private health insurance coverage or covered by a group health plan who purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized, cleared, or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be able to have those test costs covered by their plan or insurance. Insurance companies and health plans are required to cover 8 free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month. That means a family of four, all on the same plan, would be able to get up to 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month. There is no limit on the number of tests, including at-home tests, that are covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment, including for those who may need them due to underlying medical conditions.
“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Since we took office, we have more than tripled the number of sites where people can get COVID-19 tests for free, and we’re also purchasing half a billion at-home, rapid tests to send for free to Americans who need them. By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”
Over-the-counter test purchases will be covered in the commercial market without the need for a health care provider’s order or individualized clinical assessment, and without any cost-sharing requirements such as deductibles, co-payments or coinsurance, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements.
As part of the requirement, the Administration is incentivizing insurers and group health plans to set up programs that allow people to get the over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs. Insurers and plans would cover the costs upfront, eliminating the need for consumers to submit a claim for reimbursement. When plans and insurers make tests available for upfront coverage through preferred pharmacies or retailers, they are still required to reimburse tests purchased by consumers outside of that network, at a rate of up to $12 per individual test (or the cost of the test, if less than $12). For example, if an individual has a plan that offers direct coverage through their preferred pharmacy but that individual instead purchases tests through an online retailer, the plan is still required to reimburse them up to $12 per individual test. Consumers can find out more information from their plan about how their plan or insurer will cover over-the-counter tests.
“Testing is critically important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as to quickly diagnose COVID-19 so that it can be effectively treated. Today’s action further removes financial barriers and expands access to COVID-19 tests for millions of people,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.
State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs are currently required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing. In 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued guidance explaining that State Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs must cover all types of FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests without cost sharing under CMS’s interpretation of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2019 (ARP). Medicare pays for COVID-19 diagnostic tests performed by a laboratory, such as PCR and antigen tests, with no beneficiary cost sharing when the test is ordered by a physician, non-physician practitioner, pharmacist, or other authorized health care professional. People enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan should check with their plan to see if their plan offers coverage and payment for at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests.
This effort is in addition to a number of actions the Biden Administration is taking to expand access to testing for all Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is providing up to 50 million free, at-home tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified health clinics for distribution at no cost to patients and community members. The program is intended to ensure COVID-19 tests are made available to populations and settings in need of testing. HHS also has established more than 10,000 free community-based pharmacy testing sites around the country. To respond to the Omicron surge, HHS and FEMA are creating surge testing sites in states across the nation.
For more information, please see these Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.cms.gov/files/document/11022-faqs-otc-testing-guidance.pdf
For additional details on the requirements, visit https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/EBSA/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/faqs/aca-part-51.pdf
COVID-19 UPDATE (updated 11/22):
Three FEMA Mobile Vaccination Units (MVUs) have been approved for an extension and will continue operating through Tuesday, December 14, to support ongoing vaccination efforts around Oregon. Please see the tables below for updated MVU location information.
COVID-19 UPDATE (updated 11/04):
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that 5- to 11-year-olds receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Children can begin to receive vaccinations as soon as Wednesday, November 3, 2021, and vaccination efforts will fully ramp up during the week of November 8, 2021.
To find a vaccine location near you:
Text your ZIP code to 438829
Today, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.
COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold. Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.
COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID-19 and therefore reducing their risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications. Getting your children vaccinated can help protect them against COVID-19, as well as reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission.
Distribution of pediatric vaccinations across the country started this week, with plans to scale up to full capacity starting the week of November 8th. Vaccines will be available at thousands of pediatric healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and more.
RECENT UPDATES (updated 10/27):
RECENT UPDATES (updated 10/12):
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is operating Mobile Vaccination Units in Douglas, Lincoln, and Marion Counties. The MVU will be operating in Douglas County October 10-22, it will be open Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m.-6p.m.
Vaccines are free, and all Oregonians over the age of 12 are eligible, regardless of health insurance and immigration status. Dates and locations available in the chart below, and more information is available on the FEMA Region 10 website.
|County||Start Date||End Date||Location Name||Physical Address|
|Douglas||10-Oct||22-Oct||Roseburg Library Lot||
1409 Diamond Lake Blvd.
(Lot adjacent to East)
|Lincoln||24-Oct||25-Nov||Yachats Commons||441 Hwy 101 N.
|Lincoln||26-Oct||27-Oct||Waldport Community Center||256 NW Hemlock St.
|Lincoln||28-Oct||30-Oct||Toledo Library||173 NW 7th St.
|Lincoln||31-Oct||5-Nov||Chinook Winds Casino||1777 NW 44th St.
Lincoln City, OR
|Marion||7-Nov||14-Nov||ODHS||3420 Cherry Ave., NE
RECENT UPDATES (updated 9/20):
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is operating Mobile Vaccination Units in Umatilla, Jackson, Douglas, Lincoln, Marion, and Deschutes counties now through November. Vaccines are free, and all Oregonians over the age of 12 are eligible, regardless of health insurance and immigration status. Dates and locations available in the chart below, and more information is available on the FEMA Region 10 website.
|County||Start Date||End Date||Hours||Location Name||Physical Address|
|Umatilla||7-Sep||26-Sep||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Wild Horse Casino||46150 Wild Horse Blvd. Pendleton, OR|
|Jackson||28-Sep||8-Oct||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Jackson County Expo||1 Peninger Rd.
Central Point, OR
|Douglas||10-Oct||22-Oct||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Roseburg||2110 Frear St.
|Lincoln||24-Oct||5-Nov||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Newport||Hatfield Marine Center
2030 SE Marine Science Dr.
|Marion||7-Nov||19-Nov||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Woodburn Outlets||1001 N. Amey Rd.
|Deschutes||21-Nov||28-Nov||2p.m. - 8p.m. Tuesday-Sunday||Deschutes County Fairground||3800 SE Airport Way
RECENT HIGHLIGHTS (updated 7/14):
Child Tax Credit: The economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis have hit Oregon families hard. That’s why Jeff fought to make sure that federal coronavirus relief legislation included the tools our communities need to get back on their feet—like the child tax credits that are part of the American Rescue Plan that Jeff helped pass in March—to help families make ends meet. That assistance is going live, and will head directly to many eligible families’ bank accounts this week.
Families with young children will receive up to $1,800, paid in six monthly payments of $300, for each qualifying child under the age of 6; families with children ages 6 to 17 will receive $1,500, paid in six monthly payments of $250. To see if your family qualifies for the credit, click here.
Eligible families who do not usually file returns can register with the IRS using the Non-filer Sign-up Tool (for a step by step guide, click here), or file a return with the IRS. To check the status of monthly payments and to update your bank account information, click here.
RECENT HIGHLIGHTS (updated 5/10):
The Small Business Administration has reopened their Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program (SVOG). This program was established in the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Venues Act and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act to provide over $16.2 billion in economic relief to target industries. This SVOG portal is now open to receive applications and will remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted. You can submit an application here: https://www.svograntportal.sba.gov/s/
RECENT HIGHLIGHTS (updated 5/5):
Restaurants and related businesses can now apply for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The American Rescue Plan Act established this program to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location.
Learn how to apply by clicking here.
Call 1-844-279-8898 to get help with your application.
VACCINE AVAILABILITY (updated 4/13):
All Oregonians 16+ can sign up for vaccines as of April 16th. You can register with OHA now: http://www.getvaccinated.oregon.gov/
For local resources and county-by-county information on vaccines, click here.
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN (updated 3/10):
This bill comes not a day too soon, and addresses a huge number of critical issues throughout our nation. Here's my full statement on the passage of the American Rescue Plan, and below are some helpful guides to the resources it provides.
DECEMBER RELIEF PACKAGE (updated 12/22):
The latest, $900 billion coronavirus relief package includes a number of provisions that I fought for that will begin to address the desperate need among Americans. I will continue to fight for additional resources that our families and communities need to thrive.
- $600 in direct payments for individuals with incomes below $75,000, $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, and $600 for each child dependent. Importantly, this payment will also apply to mixed-status households.
- $300 in supplemental federal unemployment benefits for the next 11 weeks, as well as an extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for gig workers and the self-employed.
- $25 billion in rental assistance funding, which is new to this package.
- $13 billion for food assistance programs.
- $82 billion for colleges and schools.
- $7 billion for rural broadband, with $3.2 billion going to support connectivity for low-income families, and $1 billion for tribal broadband.
- $284 billion for business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which now includes 501(c)(6)s and local journalism outlets. Those expenses are now also tax deductible.
- $15 billion for live entertainment venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions, which is new to this package.
- $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans for businesses.
- $3.5 billion for Small Business Administration debt relief, and $2 billion for enhancements to SBA lending.
- $32 billion to procure vaccines and for vaccine distribution.
- $22 billion for states to support COVID testing, tracing and mitigation.
CARES Act FAQ'S:
PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY RELIEF BILL:
The December deal is certainly better than nothing at all, given the great need across our state and nation, but much more is needed to get American families and businesses back on their feet, and the economy back in gear.
We need another emergency aid package that prioritizes families, workers, small-businesses, and local and tribal governments. I have introduced legislation that would give small businesses greater flexibility and access to resources, especially restaurants that have been battered, and I continue fighting to pass a nationwide moratorium on utility shut-offs to ensure individuals and families can stay safely at home. If we want to avoid laying off teachers, firefighters, and other critical state, local and tribal government employees, we must include substantial support for those governments. And we must not allow this and any future emergency aid bills to become slush funds for special interests, and I continue to call on Congress to prevent emergency funds from being siphoned away from the people who really need it.
I’m going to continue pushing to make sure the federal government works quickly and with compassion so families, small businesses, and our communities have the resources they need to get through this crisis, and then to thrive. We must rebuild the economy from families and Main Street up, not Wall Street down.
- On Dec. 14, Oregon started distributing COVID-19 vaccines, prioritizing frontline health care workers and long-term care residents. The state is guaranteed 1.2 percent of the national supply—and Sen. Merkley has pushed to make sure that Oregonians receive that share. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon and future priority groups, visit the Oregon Health Authority vaccine website, CovidVaccine.Oregon.Gov. LEARN MORE
- As of Oct. 19, Oregon has expanded its statewide, enforced masked mandate. In addition to wearing masks when in public, indoor spaces, and in outdoor settings when they are not able to maintain physical distance (such as passing others on a narrow sidewalk or trail), individuals must also wear face coverings in all private and public workplaces when not alone, and also in outdoor and indoor markets, street fairs, and private schools. Learn more
- The CDC has recently updated its guidance on transmission to recognize that the coronavirus can spread through airborne transmission. This means that Oregonians should be especially cautious indoors and in poorly ventilated spaces, and be vigilant about wearing masks with others outside your household when indoors or when outdoors and unable to maintain distance. Learn more
- Through December, Oregon will have enough coronavirus test kits to do up to 80,000 “rapid antigen” tests a week, more than double the state’s current capacity. That means that OHA has updated its testing guidance: every close contact of a confirmed case will get tested, regardless of whether or not they’re showing symptoms. Learn more
- If you’ve lost your health insurance, you can apply for coverage through Oregon’s health insurance marketplace. Learn more
- I have launched a new online economic recovery hub to help Oregon businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofits to navigate and access emergency aid. Visit "Operation: Main Street"
HAZ CLIC AQUÍ para recomendaciones e información acerca de cómo prevenir la exposición, las síntomas conocidas, y qué hacer si usted cree que ha estado expuesto al coronavirus de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC). Para información específica de Oregon, por favor visite el sitio web de la Autoridad de Salud de Oregon (OHA).
COVID-19: The Coronavirus
America and the world are in the midst of dangerous global outbreak of the respiratory disease known as COVID-19 – the coronavirus. Confirmed cases continue to rise in the United States and will likely continue to for some time.
At this time, the CDC estimates that roughly 35% of COVID-19 positive Americans don’t display symptoms, and therefore may not realize they are spreading the disease. This makes social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment (like cloth masks), and adhering to stay-at-home guidelines critical to beating the coronavirus. We must slow the spread of this disease as much as possible to protect at-risk populations and prevent a catastrophic overload on our hospitals and health care system.
- Stay home and work from home, if at all possible.
- If you have been around a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes), self-isolate for at least two weeks.
- Avoid crowds of any size and attempt to keep a 6-foot distance between yourself and others at all times.
- Wear a mask in public to control particle spread. A cloth mask will suffice; medical-grade masks should not be purchased by the general public at this time, so that adequate supplies are available for health care professionals.
- When supporting local businesses or accepting home deliveries, ask for contact-less pick-up or delivery options, if possible, to minimize transmission risks.
- When grocery shopping, buy only what you need and avoid hoarding so that others may buy what they need as well.
- Continue to be vigilant about washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (soap and water is better though), and avoiding touching your face, eyes, and mouth.
- If you develop symptoms, call your health care provider, local urgent care, or emergency room BEFORE going in. They will advise you how to proceed to protect yourself and other patients.
As developments unfold, my team and I will update this page with new information for you and your loved ones. Like any major flu or respiratory virus, please follow the advice and recommendations of medical professionals to minimize and mitigate public health risks.
As a reminder: Oregon has a protected sick time law. This is very important in the face of a contagious illness like the coronavirus, when individuals are encouraged to stay home when sick to minimize exposing others and to give yourself time to recover. This law also protects those who must care for a sick family member, or who need to care for a child if their school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency. Learn more about Oregon’s sick time law
Prevention, Symptoms, and Care:
Please visit the CDC website for recommendations on how to limit exposure, what to do if you think you’ve been exposed and/or have contracted the coronavirus, and how to manage symptoms for milder cases of COVID-19.
This is a dangerous disease no matter your age or health, but certain communities are especially at risk. Learn more about specific risk groups from the CDC:
The stress of this situation can and will take a toll on many Americans. Resources are out there to help people manage stress, anxiety, and depression at this time. Please visit the CDC mental health resources page for more information and recommendations.
Communicating with Children about COVID-19:
The CDC has also compiled recommendations for how to talk to children about this situation. Please visit the CDC website for ideas on what to say and how to help children cope.
Federal Response and Emergency Assistance:
I take the safety of Oregonians and Americans incredibly seriously, which is why I pressed my Republican and Democratic colleagues to hammer out additional emergency resources for individuals, front-line responders, and communities.