(Alexandria, Va.) – Senior living advocates Argentum on Jan. 19 issued a new letter to President Biden urging definitive action by the Administration to do the right thing and protect the more than 2 million men and women living in assisted and senior living communities from the Omicron variant by targeting long-sought financial relief and new supplies of tests and boosters.
Penned by Argentum President and CEO James Balda, the letter comes in anticipation of another round of federal measures to respond to the ongoing pandemic, which is now into its third year as the Omicron variant continues to threaten the lives and homes of assisted and senior living residents who to this point have been left out in the cold when it comes to targeted relief.
“Through six relief packages and more than $6 trillion in federal spending, senior living residents and their caregivers have not received adequate support to meet the unprecedented challenges they face from this virus,” Balda said. “As you consider another legislative package, we urge you to insist on the inclusion of targeted federal financial relief for senior living providers and resources such as tests, PPE, vaccine administration, and other measures to mitigate the spread of this virus.”
Argentum’s letter comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing more than three-quarters of COVID deaths have been among seniors, including more than a quarter that have been among people age 85 and older.
The average age of seniors in assisted living is 85.
Argentum’s specific “asks” from any new federal COVID actions include:
Redirecting Provider Relief Funds (PRF) to target senior living caregivers. Despite broad bipartisan support in Congress for targeting the current Phase 4 of the PRF, these funds were ultimately not targeted, and most providers will receive insufficient relief to meet their financial challenges—potentially forcing facilities to close and seniors to lose their homes, the Argentum letter said. “Relief to date has simply not been enough to offset the $30 billion that providers have incurred from PPE, testing, cleaning, staffing needs and hero pay, as well as record-low occupancy rates. Further, the relief that’s has been allocated is only a small fraction compared to many other providers who are not providing 24/7 care on the frontlines of this crisis,” Balda said.
Directly distribute a reliable and consistent supply of COVID test kits. The past administration recognized the importance of shipping rapid tests directly to assisted living providers and began doing so in September 2020. Unfortunately, while some long-term care providers continue to receive tests, most assisted living providers no longer receive these tests and existing supplies have been depleted, Balda said.
Renew the partnership on vaccine administration through on-site clinics. A previous program was instrumental in the early part of the Biden Administration and helped senior living communities achieve estimated resident vaccination rates of 95.5% and staff vaccination rates of 87.6%. “However, as we’ve learned that vaccine efficacy wanes over time and there would be a need for boosters, this program was not resumed, leaving providers an their own to administer doses to a largely non-ambulatory population unable to travel to offsite clinics,” Balda said.
Prioritize treatments and other necessary supplies. There has been significant promise in the use of some monoclonal antibody therapies to treat individuals infected with the virus, particularly those who are more at-risk including the elderly and those with multiple comorbidities, Argentum said. “We urge the Administration to prioritize these treatments for senior living residents. Additionally, as the federal government considers distributing N95 respirators or similar face masks, we urge that senior living providers are prioritized for these programs,” the letter said.
Balda said these steps would put the nation’s resources to bear against a virus that has hit seniors harder than any other segment of the population. “As Congress considers the next relief package, we are pleading for your support. Please insist that any legislative efforts fully address the needs of our nation’s senior living communities and the nearly 2 million vulnerable older Americans who call these communities ‘home,’” Balda said.
Read the full Argentum letter at: https://tinyurl.com/yhdf7pyv.