Advocates to Governor: Establish Long-Term Care COVID-19 Task Force, Prioritize Nursing Homes & Home Care Agencies for PPE, Testing

Posted on 04/29/20 by Erik Kriss

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1199SEIU, Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP, Urban League Join AARP NY in Calling for Increased Efforts to Protect Residents, Workers

ALBANY, N.Y.— AARP New York, 1199SEIU, and leading organizations representing New York’s communities of color are urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to prioritize nursing homes and home care agencies for deployment of personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing as the front line of the battle against COVID-19 shifts.

Older New Yorkers with underlying chronic medical conditions, who live in close proximity in nursing homes, adult care facilities and assisted living residences, as well as those receiving care at home, are among those at the highest risk of death from COVID-19, the groups noted in a letter to the Governor.

AARP New York, 1199SEIU, the Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP of New York and New York Urban League urged the Governor to follow a plan for nursing homes, adult care homes and home care agencies modeled on his successful efforts to assist hospitals at the onset of the pandemic The groups called on the Governor to establish a Long Term Care COVID-19 Task Force in his office. The organizations are also calling for a right of virtual visitation for families with loved one in facilities.

“The number of deaths from COVID-19 at nursing homes and long-term care facilities is staggering, and the conditions under which our loved ones are dying there is tragic,” said AARP New York State Director Beth Finkel. “Governor Cuomo has shown national leadership in fighting this pandemic; we urge him to deploy desperately needed resources to adult care facilities and to the workers who care for our older loved ones in their own homes.”

“Our union represents over 120,000 dedicated caregivers in nursing homes and home care settings in New York. They have been making extraordinary personal sacrifices as they continue to care for vulnerable residents and clients under very difficult conditions,” said Yvonne Armstrong, 1199SEIU's Senior Executive Vice President for Long Term Care. “We appreciate Governor Cuomo’s leadership and efforts to support these workers and protect quality of care for those they care for. There is still much more work to do to ensure that every long term care worker has access to appropriate personal protection equipment and to guarantee testing to every resident and worker, and we are ready to work with all parties to get it done.”

The task force would “work with consumers, long term care providers, home care agencies, and unions on a coordinated, statewide basis to share information and seek solutions for the needs of the long term care system, addressing supply issues, staffing needs, shortages, and resident safety needs for those being admitted into facilities,” the letter says.

And, the groups added, “your immediate attention is needed to ensure the long term care system receives adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing … Undoubtedly, the lack of PPE for long term care workers threatens to leave our most vulnerable population – and the workers themselves - facing serious health threats from exposure to infection. In addition, lack of PPE deters home care workers from safely serving patients at a time when the need for home care is rising and existing staffing shortages are exacerbated by COVID-19 infections within the long term care workforce.”

“This pandemic is impacting New Yorkers of color the most,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. “So many of our facilities house disproportionate numbers of people of color. Getting PPE and testing to these facilities is literally a matter of life and death.”

“We are witnessing the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color especially for Latinos,” said Frankie Miranda, President & CEO of the Hispanic Federation. “We always knew that there were inequalities in the service provision and healthcare access in our community. The catastrophic mortality rates of our seniors and the people who take care of them have made these inequalities impossible to ignore. We must prioritize the imminent need of older adults of color especially in nursing homes and other assisted living situations, as well as the diverse workforce that cares for them, and secure potentially life-saving personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing for the health and safety of all.”

“Our community is reeling from the horrors of nursing home deaths,” said Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference. “Far too many African American and Black New Yorkers and their families are suffering and dying, and it’s high time for us to be able to tell them that help is on the way.”

“We’ve been working with AARP New York for many years, and for more than two years now we and our other partners have been seeking solutions to disrupt disparities impacting older communities of color in health and other aspects of life,” said Arva Rice, President & CEO of the New York Urban League. “This nursing home crisis really brings these disparities home. We implore the Governor to get adult care facilities the help they need.”

Noting that testing is the only way to determine whether individuals are COVID-19-positive, the organizations are recommending that staff and residents of the state’s long-term care system be made “an immediate priority” as New York State ramps up testing.

“If supply shortages prevent widespread testing, the state should prioritize testing of individuals working or residing in long term care facilities who are known to have had contact with COVID-19-positive people, and for staff that have direct contact with residents, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms,” the groups wrote.

AARP has been urging anyone with a loved one at a nursing home to ask the facility six key questions.

Contact: Erik Kriss, ekriss@aarp.org

Follow us on Twitter: @AARPNY and Facebook: AARP New York

About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

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This story is provided by AARP New York. Visit the AARP New York page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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You can find CDC’s latest coronavirus information at cdc.gov/coronavirus; AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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