What We're Reading: CMS Addresses Price Transparency, Health Equity; Wildfire Smoke and COVID-19; Masking in Schools

CMS proposes rule on price transparency and emergency care access in rural communities and health care gaps exacerbated by the pandemic; wildfire smoke is associated with increased susceptibility to COVID-19; American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mask mandates in schools.

CMS Proposes Rule to Address Price Transparency, Health Equity Gap

CMS yesterday proposed a rule that aims to improve price transparency and emergency care access in rural communities, as well as address the health equity gap. Aligned with President Joe Biden’s Competition Executive Order, the rule would increase the penalty for some hospitals that do not comply with the Hospital Price Transparency final rule. Proposed actions also seek to incorporate lessons learned from the pandemic to inform patient care and quality measurements, such as availability of behavioral health services and trends in practice patterns.

Wildfire Smoke Linked With COVID-19 Risk

Reported by The Associated Press, study findings published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology indicate that COVID-19 infection rates increased disproportionately in northern Nevada during the wildfire season in 2020. With wildfires currently spreading in the western United States and in Canada, the paper shows that for every 10 mcg/m3 of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5), the positivity rate increased approximately 6.3% in the 2 to 6 days that followed. Researchers noted that PM2.5 from other sources, such as vehicle traffic or industry, may also increase susceptibility to COVID-19.

AAP Recommend Mask Mandates in Schools

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) yesterday issued recommendations for the 2021-2022 school year that includes mask mandates for everyone older than age 2, regardless of vaccination status. As reported by USA Today, the recommendations strongly urge those who are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as a nationwide surge has seen cases increase in all 50 states. Furthermore, the AAP reinforced recommendations issued prior by the CDC on ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning, and disinfection in school buildings.