(Alexandria, Va.) – Calling the situation “entirely unacceptable” and dangerous, senior living advocates Argentum penned a letter to President Biden and the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding that Americans in assisted living not be “Left Behind…Again,” for vital COVID testing, vaccines, and financial relief at a time the Omicron variant ravages the nation.
“With the Omicron variant now rampant and impacting the lives of millions of American seniors, including the nearly two million older Americans who call senior living home, we are imploring your administration to step up and ensure that they and their caregivers have the resources and support needed to keep everyone safe,” said James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum, in the letter to Biden and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Specifically, Argentum asked the Administration for help with 1) directly supplying tests to senior living facilities; 2) assistance with vaccine/booster administration; and 3) targeted federal financial relief.
The letter resulted from pleas across the country from Argentum members who operate assisted living, memory care, independent living, and continuing care communities, which serve as the homes for one in four older Americans who need assistance with daily living.
The letter stressed that caregivers in these communities have been working tirelessly to keep everyone safe, remaining on the frontlines of this crisis for the past two years as they have provided 24/7 care for seniors who are the most at-risk of COVID-19, with an average age of 85 and many suffering from multiple comorbidities.
“Unfortunately, these caregivers have consistently not had access to necessary support or resources, which are even more critically needed now. The most critical tools for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and protecting residents and staff are testing, vaccines, and boosters,” Balda said.
The vaccines offer the clearest example of how much a life-and-death-issue this is, Argentum said, noting that an industry survey conducted last month showed senior living resident vaccination rates of 95.5 percent and staff vaccination rates of 87.6 percent. These rates have been possible due previous support programs led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which earlier this year helped with administration of the first series of vaccines.
“Unfortunately, this program was not resumed for the administration of boosters, which placed enormous burdens on providers to vaccinate a largely non-ambulatory population unable to travel to outside clinics,” Balda said in the letter.
While vaccines and boosters are helping to reduce some severe infections, unfortunately, the data show that more than two-thirds of breakthrough case hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals are occurring in those who are age 65 and older.
Argentum said this fact is why testing is so critical for providers to better track and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within these congregate care settings. But COVID testing supplies are not being prioritized by the Biden Administration for senior living communities.
Finally, the Administration must also prioritize the remaining Provider Relief Funds (PRF) for assisted living providers. “While we appreciate that additional relief is being made available through the current Phase 4 of the PRF, it is simply inadequate to offset the more than $30 billion in expenses and losses that assisted living providers have incurred in COVID-19-related losses due to PPE, testing, cleaning, staffing needs and hero pay, as well as record-low occupancy rates,” Balda said in the letter.
Through Phase 3 of relief, assisted living providers have received less than half of one percent of the PRF, and Phase 4 of relief only offsets 20 percent to 25 percent of most providers’ losses for the time periods where their losses were the greatest.
“Senior living communities are not like restaurants, hotels, or other venues. They are the places where seniors and their loved ones have chosen to call home. They urgently need your help. Please do everything in your power to ensure they have the testing resources, additional support for vaccine/booster administration, and financial relief that are so critically needed for this most vulnerable population,” Balda said.
Read the full Argentum letter at https://tinyurl.com/ytsp4dm7.
Argentum is the leading national association exclusively dedicated to supporting companies operating professionally managed, resident-centered senior living communities and the older adults and families they serve. Since 1990, Argentum has advocated for choice, independence, dignity, and quality of life for all older adults.
Argentum member companies operate senior living communities offering assisted living, independent living, continuing care, and memory care services. Along with its state partners, Argentum’s membership represents approximately 75 percent of the senior living industry—an industry with a national economic impact of nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars and responsible for providing over 1.6 million jobs.
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