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Senior Advocates Urge Governor to Require More Testing in Nursing Homes

Connecticut nursing homes no longer are required to test their staff members weekly for COVID-19 exposure. (Renowned Skilled Nursing)
Connecticut nursing homes no longer are required to test their staff members weekly for COVID-19 exposure. (Renowned Skilled Nursing)
July 2, 2020

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Senior groups are pleading for increased COVID-19 testing at Connecticut nursing homes, because residents of these facilities make up less than 1% the state's population, but 64% of deaths and 19% of infections.

AARP Connecticut sent a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont this week, asking that he reinstate the June 1 executive order requiring nursing-home staff be tested weekly.

It's an order that he relaxed just two weeks later.

Anna Doroghazi, associate state director for advocacy and outreach at AARP Connecticut, said she is baffled by the governor's backtracking: "Why we aren't taking really aggressive measures to protect this population that has already suffered so much during the pandemic?"

Gov. Lamont has said the change, which drops the testing requirement once a facility goes two weeks without a positive test, is in line with new federal guidelines.

And Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, has said that once a building has been clear for 14 days, additional tests are wasteful and counterproductive.

Doroghazi countered that this doesn't account for workers who may be infected but asymptomatic.

"They could touch every patient in that facility, not knowing that they're infected, and spread it around," she argued. "So, this testing is a proactive way to keep everybody safe."

The letter also criticized Lamont's decision to grant civil immunity to nursing homes from lawsuits that might stem from COVID-19.

In Doroghazi's view, that amounts to a "get-out-of-jail-free card."

"To say that facilities have civil immunity is saying, 'You know what? We don't need to learn from mistakes made during this time. And no matter how egregious those mistakes were, we're going to give you a pass for them,'" she stated.

Disclosure: AARP Connecticut contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CT