A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AARP urging Congress to address COVID-19 spread in nursing homes, provide testing, PPE, more staff

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

AARP is urging Congress to take action to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help protect the lives of nursing home residents by boosting access to personal protective equipment, testing and nursing staff.

According to data from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, more than 500 nursing home residents so far have tested positive and more than 370 have died.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many family members have been unable to visit loved ones in nursing homes.(Photo from AARP Kentucky)

Scott Wegenast, associate state director for communications and outreach with AARP Kentucky, says some nursing home residents haven’t seen their families in nearly 100 days.

“There is some virtual visitation going on in Kentucky, but across the country, AARP is asking for Congress and the administration to provide more funding to make certain there is access to virtual visitation, hardware, applications, etc.,” he said.

Nationwide more than 50,000 people living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wegenast says facilities should be required to report publicly on a daily basis whether they have
confirmed new coronavirus cases.

He adds oversight is needed to ensure that the billions of dollars in taxpayer funding for nursing homes is being used for personal protective equipment, testing and other measures directly relating to COVID-19 resident care, prevention and treatment.

“AARP is strongly urging Congress to protect the safety of residents, including the rights of the residents when they are begin transferred or discharged, and to their families who may seek legal redress,” Wegenast said.

Staffing shortages are also a concern as nursing homes try to keep COVID-19 infections under control.

One study of 215 facilities found those with more registered nurses had lower rates of COVID-19 deaths.

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