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Geiger Gibson / RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative


COVID-19; Community Health Centers


Executive Summary:

This policy brief reports on the COVID-19 experience of the nation’s community health centers over a six-month period, utilizing data from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) weekly Health Center COVID-19 Survey from April 3rd, 2020 to October 2nd, 2020. The data demonstrate that community health centers were immediately responsive to the public health crisis, initiating diagnostic testing for the COVID-19 virus, and adapting care such as telehealth to address patient needs. However, with visits down overall and limited financial relief, the pandemic has taken an enormous financial toll on health centers. Cumulative patient revenue losses over six months are estimated at $3.364 billion, which amounts to nearly 11 percent of total health center revenue reported nationally in 2019. Other key findings include:

-The share of health centers with the capacity to provide COVID-19 diagnostic testing grew from 80 percent in early April to nearly all (97 percent) six months later.

-Community health centers have tested a total of more than four million patients for COVID-19 virus over six months. In the aggregate, a total of 456,682 health center patients and 14,562 staff members have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. With 7.3 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S. reported as of October 2nd, the number of health center patients who have tested positive accounted for 6.2 percent of cases nationally, or one in 16 of all U.S. cases.

-Average turn-around times for test results have improved from their lowest point in mid-July, when turn-around times of four or more days were reported by two thirds of responding health centers, to 14 percent as of the most current reporting period.

-In line with research that has found that minorities are disproportionally at risk for infection with the COVID-19 virus, patients reported as racial and ethnic minorities, particularly Hispanic/Latino patients, accounted disproportionately for patients who tested positive.

-Measures of operational capacity including temporary site closures, staff unable to work, and declines in weekly visits have improved over the six months, but remain substantial and vary greatly by state.

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