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What’s New in Digital Equity: Minnesota Launches COVID-19 Telehealth Program

Plus, a federal report has found that more workers will be needed in order to deploy the massive investment the country is making in broadband, the FCC has opened a comment cycle for broadband labeling, and more.

A notebook and a tablet sitting on a table covered in a red cloth next to a medical device and knick-knacks.
This week in “What’s New in Digital Equity” — our weekly look at government digital equity and broadband news — we have a number of interesting items, which you can jump to with the links below:


Minnesota has launched a new telehealth pilot program that will let residents who test positive for COVID-19 get fast and easy access to a doctor’s appointment.

The program is live now. The way it works is that any Minnesotan who tests positive for COVID-19 — either through an at-home test or through a lab — can download the Cue Health app, sign up with their Minnesota address, and then get a virtual consultation. Through this consultation, the individual can meet with a licensed clinician who will determine if therapeutic treatment is a good option.

If the clinician does make that designation, the clinician can then send a relevant prescription right to the individual’s pharmacy. In some areas of the state, that prescription can also be delivered directly to the home, ensuring that the person who has tested positive does not have to go out and expose others in order to get medication.

All of the services through this pilot program come at no cost to Minnesotans.

“We know that accessing therapeutics within five days of developing symptoms of COVID-19 can greatly improve outcomes and help Minnesotans to avoid severe illness or hospitalization,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a statement. “We are continuing to find new and innovative ways to reduce barriers to access for those therapeutics.”

This state-level effort to stem COVID-19 is the latest government program aimed at tamping down the continued spread of the virus. The federal government also recently announced that it would once again offer its program in which it sends U.S. residents free COVID-19 tests through the mail. (Zack Quaintance)


A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found increased workforce needs around broadband deployment.

The analysis found that with the scale of broadband deployment made possible through recent federal funding opportunities, 23,000 additional workers would be needed if the work is spread over 10 years — and an even greater quantity would be needed for deployment within a shorter time span. GAO’s report also suggests the existence of a possible labor shortage because unemployment rates for selected occupations were lower than the national average.

However, as government agencies look to address workforce needs, the recent layoffs in the private sector may present an opportunity for the public sector. (Julia Edinger)


This week, President Joe Biden signed several bills into law, one of which being S. 198. This bill, the Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act, requires the Federal Communications Commission to integrate data on maternal health outcomes into its Mapping Broadband Health in America platform.

“We do need to understand that 50 percent of health outcomes — and this is pretty well researched and documented — are driven by factors beyond access to care and behavior,” Stacey Millett, project director for the Health Impact Project at Pew Charitable Trusts, previously told Government Technology.

The legislation was made possible by leadership from senators Jacky Rosen, Deb Fischer, Todd Young and Brian Schatz as well as representatives G.K. Butterfield, Gus Bilirakis, Lisa Blunt Rochester and Gwen Moore. (Julia Edinger)


The FCC has announced a comment cycle for its broadband labeling plans.

Specifically, the commission is interested in ensuring that the labels are accessible for all. It is looking for comments on ways to improve broadband label accessibility, including video calls in sign language. It also wants comments related to Braille for the labels, and more.

This all comes after the FCC announced in November that it would require broadband Internet service providers to display “easy-to-understand” labels in order to foster transparency for consumers who are comparing potential services. (Zack Quaintance)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for <i>Government Technology</i>. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.