General Information/Articles Concerning COVID-19
Pritzker Administration Announces First Round of COVID-19 Vaccine Administered to Residents and Staff at State Veterans’ Homes

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              CONTACT:    Bridget Dooley (IDVA), 217-299-8325                     
December 31, 2020                                         bridget.dooley@illinois.gov

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) today announced that all residents and employees of the Illinois Veterans’ Homes have had the COVID-19 vaccine made available to them. The first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine was administered this week to all residents and staff who opted to receive it. The second dose will be administered at the homes in three weeks, with vaccine continuing to be made available to those who have not yet opted to receive it.

 

“Our veterans are heroes who bravely served us and deserve quality care. With the vaccine now available, my administration worked quickly and efficiently to distribute vaccines to veterans and staff in our state-run homes. I’m grateful to our local health department partners for their hard work to get this done and we will continue to work together to protect those most vulnerable to this virus,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

 

 

"From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the IDVA has worked closely with Governor Pritzker and IDPH to implement policies that protect the health and safety of Illinois’ heroes and the dedicated staff who care for them,” said IDVA Director Linda Chapa LaVia. “IDVA has already facilitated the vaccination of 74% of all veterans’ home residents and we will continue to rely on guidance from IDPH in our effort to protect those in our care.”

 

Among adults, the risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults considered to be at the highest risk. Accordingly, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health have prioritized the veterans’ homes along with other long-term care facilities and health care providers in the first round of Illinois’ vaccination plan.

 

794 residents and staff to date have received a combination of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The county health departments in each of the homes’ respective areas delivered the vaccine to the homes. Until the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled, staff and residents who receive the vaccine will continue following Illinois Department of Public Health guidance to limit the spread of this virus.

 

Staff and residents who have not opted to receive their first dose will continue to have the vaccine made available to them, along with education and direct outreach encouraging all who are eligible to opt in to receive the vaccine. Following this initial vaccine program, 74% of residents in the homes have been vaccinated and 40% of the staff have received the vaccine. A breakdown of percentages of staff and residents at each of the homes who have received the vaccine are as follows:

 

  • Illinois Veterans’ Home in Anna:  Residents – 95%   Staff – 32%

  • Illinois Veterans’ Home in Manteno:  Residents – 90%   Staff – 18%

  • Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy:  Residents – 90%   Staff – 42%

  • Illinois Veterans’ Home in LaSalle:  Residents – 71%   Staff – 28%

Beware of COVID-19 Testing Scams Targeting TRICARE Beneficiaries

 

4/2/2020

 

While medical professionals in the U.S. and overseas are working hard to combat the coronavirus, some people are using this as an opportunity to take advantage of others. If you receive a call from someone offering to send you a COVID-19 testing kit, you could be the target of a scam. Below are facts about testing and ways you can prevent your TRICARE information from being stolen.

 

Know the testing process

COVID-19 testing isn’t available for everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your medical provider is the only one who can determine if you need testing. So be sure to talk to him or her if you’re experiencing symptoms. The main symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath

Other risk factors include:

“Scammers know COVID-19 testing kits are in high demand,” says Dr. John Kugler, chief of the Clinical Support Division at the Defense Health Agency (DHA). “They’re targeting beneficiaries who may be unaware of the testing process and looking to steal their personal information. Your health care provider will usually determine and order the test if you need it, so check with your doctor’s office if someone else offers you testing.”

 

What to do if someone calls

The people involved in the COVID-19 testing kit scam are looking to steal personal information from you. This could be your Social Security, credit card, or bank account numbers. Don’t give them the opportunity to do it. If you receive a call about coronavirus testing, submit a fraud report online to the DHA Program Integrity Office. Also report it to your TRICARE regional contractor.

 

Look out for other scams

Testing kit calls aren’t the only way scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak. They’re on social media, too. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently put out a statement on avoiding coronavirus-related investment scams. When using social networks, like Twitter or Facebook, be wary of people you don’t know who ask for money. If you use a mobile payment app, like Cash App or Venmo, don’t give out your username or contact information to a person you don’t know. If someone you know sends you a social media message about a COVID-19 fundraiser, call them before sending any money. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

A helpful reminder

If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have been in close contact with someone sick from COVID-19, or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread, don’t make an appointment or walk into your local military hospital or clinic. Instead, you should remain at home and contact your medical provider. Your medical provider will assess your condition and determine if you need to be tested.

Call 911 and get medical attention immediately if you develop emergency warning signs:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  • New confusion or inability to arouse

  • Bluish lips or face

​For more information about TRICARE and COVID-19, you can visit the TRICARE coronavirus page. For the latest news on COVID-19, be sure to visit www.cdc.gov and www.fema.gov.

Last Updated 4/2/2020

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Beware of Scams Connected to the Coronavirus Crisis

By: Amber Monks

In a time of uncertainty, there is a heightened risk of falling victim to scams concocted by those with ill intent. For cybercriminals and scammers, the coronavirus crisis creates an attentive audience who may be willing to accept false information to protect themselves.

 

Arm yourself not only against the virus, but against other threats, by learning how to detect them first with tips from the Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

 

Knowing how legitimate organizations do business can give you a leg up on anyone who attempts to pull the wool over your eyes.

 

As always, follow good practices online and don’t open or click on links from unsolicited emails. These links or emails could contain malware. Never give away personal or financial information about yourself or others online without first verifying the source.

 

Most scams include messaging that require immediate action. No matter how urgent it sounds, if something doesn’t sound quite right, it probably isn’t, and you can always contact an organization you know and trust for confirmation. Legitimate organizations can verify their information and will not pressure you into taking an action that you are uncomfortable with.

 

Seeking information from trusted sources can also help you steer clear of scams. MOAA has links to these organizations, as well as links for recent news updates, at MOAA.org/coronavirus. You can also contact your state, county, or city health department, your local hospital, your primary care physician, local medical clinics, or other locations where you receive medical services.

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National Cemetery Administration Suspends Military Funeral Honors

By: Cory Titus

 

The National Cemetery Administration is suspending military funeral honors – whether by military personnel or volunteer organizations – at its 142 national cemeteries.

 

The move comes as a precaution to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Cemeteries will remain open and continue to provide interments for veterans and eligible individuals. Immediate family members – limited to 10 people – will be able to witness from a distance.

 

The NCA is asking families who wish to postpone a scheduled interment to contact the national cemetery where the interment is scheduled as soon as possible. Those who choose to continue with the interment can work with the NCA to schedule a committal or memorial services at a later date. The National Cemetery Scheduling Office in St. Louis will continue to provide scheduling services for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. To schedule a burial, call (800) 535-1117, option 1.

 

Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) closed to the public as of March 13. Funerals will continue, per the ANC website, and family members can visit during restricted hours after obtaining a family pass. Family members can call (877) 907-8585 for information about visitation, ceremonies, or scheduling. Updates will be posted on ANC’s Facebook page.

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Healthy Finances, Healthy You

By: Vera Wilson

A recent study reveals 90% of Americans say finances are a major source of frustration and anxiety, with most of us calling it our top stressor. To get out of your financial rut, the study suggests taking “microsteps,” actions that are too-small-to-fail and promote healthy financial habits. Here are the highlights: 

 

·        Troublesome thoughts are more stressful if you try to avoid them. Writing down the fact that you’re two months late on your car payment — especially if it’s keeping you up at night — allows you to park it for now but makes it real and therefore actionable.

 

·        Most people who are able to improve their financial situation turned to others for support and feedback. Identify someone you can talk to about your finances. Find a good listener who will sympathize with your challenges and offer guidance but won’t be judgmental.

 

·        Break down a big financial goal into smaller, less intimidating steps so that you can celebrate achievements and track your progress.

 

·        Review your finances at least monthly (with your partner, if you combine your money with theirs). Pinpoint any concerns and make course corrections if necessary.

 

·        How many times have you missed a payment due date by just a day? Set calendar reminders on your phone or computer so a missed $25 payment doesn’t turn into a $39 late fee alongside a healthy dose of regret.

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MOAA Urges Congress to Temporarily Waive TRICARE Mail Order Copays

 

By: Karen Ruedisueli

 

TRICARE pharmacy copays were set into law with the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. For calendar year 2020, the mail order copay for a 90-day supply of medications is $10 for generics, $29 for brand name, and $60 for non-formulary drugs.

 

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Your Lawmakers to Waive Mail Order Copays During the Pandemic]   <<<<<SEND MESSAGE NOW>>>>

 

Many military families — particularly those with special needs, wounded warriors, and Medicare-eligible retirees and their spouses — take multiple maintenance medications each day.

 

Even with the COVID-19 national emergency, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) does not have the authority to modify TRICARE pharmacy copays, so MOAA is advocating for a legislative fix.

 

[RELATED: Read This Pentagon-Produced FAQ on Pharmacy Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic]

 

Military families appreciate the option of getting medications at no cost from pharmacies at military treatment facilities (MTFs), since TRICARE mail order copays can quickly add up. The TRICARE pharmacy copay structure creates a strong incentive for patients to visit the MTF pharmacy, increasing risk of exposure to COVID-19.

 

Eliminating mail order copays reduces the financial incentive to use MTF pharmacies and encourages social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, a precaution that is strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

A copay waiver is particularly important since some installations have instituted temporary access restrictions while others have put limitations on pharmacy access intended to protect both patients and health care teams, with more restrictions likely should conditions worsen.

 

MOAA seeks to ensure impacted families don’t face sudden, unexpected out-of-pocket costs related to medication copays.

 

Please consult the TRICARE website for guidance on transferring your prescriptions to mail order or retail. If you experience problems transferring your prescriptions, please let us know at legis@moaa.org or by sharing your story.

Coronavirus Resources

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MOAA Board Member: COVID-19 Makes Chinese Medication Stronghold ‘Even More Frightening’

 

APRIL 01, 2020

By MOAA Staff

 

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the country’s need to cut its drug dependency on China, according to a recent commentary by a MOAA board member that appeared in The Capital newspaper of Annapolis, Md.

 

“The issue has become even more frightening as the search continues for vaccines to fight the coronavirus,” wrote Rear Adm. Tom Jurkowsky, USN (Ret). “But the coronavirus takes the problem beyond the context of the military. Our dependence on China for drugs is truly a national security issue that affects each and every citizen.”

 

[TAKE ACTION: Ask Congress to Secure America’s Pharmaceutical Supply]<<<<<<SEND MESSAGE NOW>>>>>>

 

China’s stronghold on prescription drugs could endanger the United States, as medicines in the hands of an adversary can be weaponized, Jurkowsky wrote.  

 

“Clearly, making this investment will help reinvigorate the U.S. generic manufacturing base and capacity,” he wrote. “It’s a necessary step for the U.S. to achieve even a minimum level of self-sufficiency in manufacturing pharmaceuticals vital to our nation’s health security. The time to cut our drug dependency on China is now – and well overdue.”

 

In March, health care author and adviser Rosemary Gibson testified before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, where she said $8.3 billion in emergency supplemental package to respond to coronavirus is a critical step forward, but doesn’t include funding for the United States to manufacture generic drugs. This leaves the nation reliant on China for manufacturing, she said.

 

Gibson recently co-authored China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America's Dependence on China for Medicine, which provides insight into China’s role in the prescription and over-the-counter drug market. She also wrote an article about the U.S. dependence on Chinese drugs and drug ingredients for the April 2019 edition of Military Officer magazine.

 

Read Jurkowsky’s full commentary here.

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Army Recruiting - Recruits Offered Student Loan Payoffs

 

The U.S. Army is offering to pay off student loans of up to $65,000 or to give $15,000 bonuses to recruits willing to sign up for the infantry. The Army has been offering increased financial incentives to attract recruits to take on one of its most physically challenging jobs since it missed its recruiting goal in fiscal 2018 by 6,500 soldiers. "There's a very unique bond between infantry soldiers not found in any other [career] in the Army," Staff. Sgt. Leonard Markley, a recruiter in Toledo, Ohio, whose primary career field is infantry, said in a recent service news release. "It's us against the world, and we as infantrymen all know about the hardships that come with this [career]: walking countless miles, sleep deprivation and rationed meals. "Even when I see another infantryman walking by, I have respect for him and have his back, because we are brothers through all our hardships," he added.

 

     "The Infantry has instilled a work ethic in me that is noticeably different than my peers," Markley said. "This work ethic and discipline will set me apart wherever I go after the military. It is the premier career for leadership and management development skills. I can go anywhere and be a successful manager in any civilian field." To qualify for the infantry, applicants must score a minimum of 87 on the combat line score of the Armed Forces Qualification Test and pass the Occupational Physical Assessment Test at the heavy level, according to the release. Recruits attend a 22-week Infantry One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. During training, they will list their specific infantry job preferences, although assignments are determined by the needs of the Army. Upon graduation, soldiers are assigned as either an infantryman (11B) or an indirect fire infantryman (11C), the release states.

 

     Until recently, Army recruiters were offering bonuses of up to $40,000 for a six-year enlistment in the infantry. The Army began paying out hefty bonuses for infantry recruits in May 2019 to meet a shortfall of about 3,300 infantry training seats by the end of fiscal 2019. It was part of a sweeping new recruiting strategy launched at the beginning of fiscal 2019, after the service missed its fiscal 2018 goal. [Source:  Military.com | Matthew Cox | March12, 2020 ++]

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USMC Confederate Paraphernalia Policy

 

On Base Ban on All Rebel Items

 

The Marine Corps is a combat organization that can't afford breakdowns in trust or unit cohesion, which is why the service's top general says he's banning all Confederate items on base. Commandant Gen. David Berger acknowledged on 5 MAR that his recent directive to remove Confederate paraphernalia has been met with mixed reactions. But the general stood by the move in his first public comments about the controversial decision in an exclusive interview with Military.com. "Things that divide us are not good," Berger said. "Whatever [Marines] have in their homes is fine. When on government property, we have to think as a unit and how to build a team, a cohesive team."

 

     Berger, who spoke from the historic Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C., said his decision to ban Confederate items wasn't based on a specific event. A week before his memo was issued, members of Congress held a hearing on extremism in the military ranks, including the rising threat of white supremacy. "It's about focusing on how we can get better, how we can get better as an organization," the commandant said.

 

     At least one other military leader has been asked why his service isn't following the Marine Corps' lead and banning the items on base. A Coast Guard Academy cadet asked Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz this week if he would consider a similar decision for that service. "If the use of such a derogatory object does not offend someone ... shouldn't we be worried about their ability to effectively lead and understand people of all different backgrounds?" the cadet asked, according to The Day in Connecticut. Army officials were also asked if the Marine Corps' new policy would lead to 10 bases named for Confederate leaders being renamed. As of last week, service officials said there were no plans to rename any street or installation, including those named for Confederate generals, Task & Purpose reported.

 

     Berger said no other military leaders have consulted him about his decision to forbid Confederate items on Marine Corps bases. "They may, but not so far," he said. The commandant said he expected mixed opinions on the policy. Some have applauded the decision, calling it long overdue. Others have accused Berger of attempting to strip the military of a part of its heritage. Having grown up near the Mason-Dixon Line that separated the North and South and who studied at Tulane University, the New Orleans college that shut its doors during the Civil War, Berger said he's aware of what the flag means to many. "But our focus as leaders is doing what's right for the institution," he said. "We're not being politically correct -- nobody told me to do this. The sergeant major and I are just trying to do what's right for the institution. "We're trying to make it better."  [Source: Military.com | Gina Harkins | March 6, 2020 ++]

 

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Coronavirus - Handling Mail

A Salt Lake City mother who does a lot of online shopping posed this query to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

 

“I’m curious how long coronavirus lives on surfaces, and how we should be handling the mail.”

 

     The question came up in a CNN/Facebook global town hall with Fauci — who in recent weeks has become the “public face” of the U.S. medical response to the coronavirus epidemic as a member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force. Fauci responded that, for the most part, the new coronavirus appears to remain on surfaces for no more than a couple of hours. For that reason, he thinks it is very likely that by the time the mail gets to its recipient, any risk of infection will have passed. So, you should be safe to open any mail you receive from Grandma, the IRS or anyone else.

 

     Fauci emphasized that he didn’t want to downplay the importance of wiping down surfaces of things when it’s easy to do — such as disinfecting door handles and cellphones. For details on how to do that properly, check out “5 Household Cleaners That Can Kill the Coronavirus” and “How to Disinfect Your Smartphone Without Damaging It.” But Fauci added that such vigilance should have its limits. “I think if you start thinking about money and mail and things like that, you can almost sort of immobilize yourself, which I don’t think is a good idea,” he concluded.

 

     It is worth noting that some experts have speculated that the coronavirus may live for longer on surfaces than just a couple of hours. For example, Dr. Margaret Harris of the World Health Organization told The Grocer website that since the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 appears to behave like other coronaviruses, it is possible that it “may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.” So, if you have concerns about touching any surface — including the mail — be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with the surface. 

 

[Source:  MoneyTalksNews | Chris Kissell | March 28, 2020 ++]