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Advocates: Protect AZ Nursing-Home Residents From COVID Spike

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Senior health advocates such as AARP are concerned the current rise in the number of COVID-19 cases could increase the isolation of Arizona's nursing-home residents. (Ursula Page/Adobe Stock)
Senior health advocates such as AARP are concerned the current rise in the number of COVID-19 cases could increase the isolation of Arizona's nursing-home residents. (Ursula Page/Adobe Stock)
November 19, 2020

PHOENIX -- As COVID-19 cases in Arizona continue to spike, health-care advocates have renewed their call for state leaders to enhance protections for nursing-home residents and staff.

Recent statistics show while Arizona is doing better than some other states, there is concern things are trending in the wrong direction, particularly among nursing homes and assisted-living centers.

Dana Marie Kennedy, state director for AARP Arizona, said it has been nine months since COVID-19 struck Arizona, but many nursing homes still don't have what they need to properly protect residents.

"We've been advocating from day one to make sure that facilities have adequate testing, they have adequate PPE [personal protective equipment], to make sure that they have the resources to pay staff a little bit more," Kennedy explained.

Kennedy noted one in five Arizona nursing homes are not properly staffed to handle the pandemic.

In an update Wednesday, Gov. Doug Ducey did not announce any new anti-COVID measures, but said nursing-home residents and staff will be among the first to receive vaccines when they become available.

Kennedy added data from federal health officials shows many long-term care facilities suffer from inadequate supplies of PPE, a lack of testing, and insufficient oversight. She said if money is a problem, the state needs to talk to the folks in Washington, DC.

"They did get CARES (Act) funding over $1,689,000 to divide between 147 facilities," Kennedy observed. "So if that money has run out, we need to continue to encourage Congress to pass another stimulus bill."

Kennedy also expressed concern for the mental health of nursing-home residents as COVID-19 makes a comeback.

"I'm more concerned that they're going to stop allowing visits," Kennedy stressed. "People who are dying of loneliness and isolation; and those visits from family members are really important."

AARP urged Ducey and other Arizona leaders to improve transparency in reporting nursing-home data, ensure residents have - under safety guidelines - access to in-person or virtual visits with family members, and to expand transparency in the use of state and federal funds earmarked for nursing facilities.

Disclosure: AARP Arizona contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ