WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help nursing homes and assisted living facilities protect seniors and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), along with more than 30 of his Senate colleagues, is pressing the Coronavirus Task Force on its preparedness and response plans for seniors and individuals with disabilities. The Senators sent three letters to the Trump Administration regarding the safety of people living in nursing homes, the ability of seniors living in the community to maintain critical services including delivered meals and home care, and ensuring that up-to-date and accurate information is easily accessible to seniors and people with disabilities.
Nursing homes are at particularly high risk during this pandemic because older residents often have weakened immune systems and underlying health issues that make them vulnerable to infection. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people older than 80 with major illnesses have the greatest risk from COVID-19 and should take extra precautions.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to protect seniors and the most vulnerable from coronavirus. Rhode Island nursing homes are being proactive and taking critical and unprecedented steps to protect seniors and elderly patients. The federal government needs to do its part to help them with medical and cleaning supplies, guidance, and other resources,” said Senator Reed. “The Trump Administration needs to outline its plans for infection control and make assistance available to protect vulnerable Americans.”
Members of the Rhode Island Health Care Association employ 10,000 people who care for 22,000 elderly residents, including 7,500 Rhode Islanders who rely on 24-hour care.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has directed states to suspend nearly all nursing home inspections and oversight unrelated to infection control or instances of abuse and neglect. One of the first known outbreaks of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) occurred in a Kirkland, Washington state nursing home, Life Care Center, which has accounted for more than 20 of the state’s 48 coronavirus deaths.
In a series of letters over the last week, Senator Reed and Bob Casey (D-PA) have led colleagues in requesting information on steps that are being taken to protect nursing home residents, staff, and their families. They also urged the Trump Administration to outline its plans for ensuring that older adults who receive services in their homes and communities through their local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, and other community organizations will remain safe from the virus, and to what extent the Administration is taking action to ensure that information about the virus is accessible to everyone, including people who are deaf or blind or have limited English proficiency.