AARP Florida calls on Florida Leaders to Ramp Up Coronavirus Protections for Sunshine State Elders, Health Care Staff

Posted on 03/03/20

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AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson issued the following statement today calling on Florida state elected leaders and state agencies to ramp up oversight of elder-care facilities in the wake of new developments in the global coronavirus epidemic:

“News of coronavirus infections in a West Coast nursing home, and a concerning new World Health Organization analysis of elder risk from the virus, are highlighting the need today for Florida elected officials and state agencies to ensure that America’s grayest state is prepared to protect vulnerable elder populations – and the dedicated professional and family caregivers who care for them.”

Johnson noted that news reports Sunday reported that one person has died and four others have been hospitalized after a coronavirus infection cluster came to light in a nursing home in Kirkland, Wash.

Johnson also noted that a new World Health Organization report shows that death rates among older people could be ten times as high for people age 80 or older as for the overall population. While this information is concerning, Johnson also cautioned that early information on death rates may change as more information becomes available.

“With nearly 700 Florida nursing homes and many more assisted living facilities housing about 160,000 older residents, Florida should lead the way in preparing for the spread of this disease,” Johnson said. “There is much we don’t know about this illness, but this already seems clear: While the illness appears to be mild for many younger, healthy people, the risks could be much more serious for elders, especially those who are already frail and vulnerable.”

Johnson urged state officials to consider the impacts on the illness not only on residents of elder-care facilities but also on the staff who care for them. Providing adequate supplies of protective wear is important to ensuring that staffers remain safe but also so that infection does not spread within a facility, he said.

He also called on state officials to expedite, to the degree possible, testing kits that allow for rapid determination of coronavirus infections, a key step in ensuring that the disease is contained if infection strikes a health-care or elder-care facility or a community.

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