AUSTIN (KXAN) — With more than 1,000 deaths at long term care facilities, some of Texas’ most vulnerable people now account for 45% of all COVID-19 deaths in the state.
As they bear a disproportionate brunt of the coronavirus burden, the Texas branch of the American Association of Retired Persons is weighing in on what needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable.
AARP Texas Associate State Director of Advocacy Amanda Fredriksen talked with KXAN’s Tom Miller about their effort to help.
Tom: What needs to be done to make sure that there aren’t more deaths?
Amanda: There needs to be national attention and national action to make sure that this population is protected, to make sure that the facilities have the supply of PPE that they need, that there’s a regular plan and regular testing of staff and residents. Particularly as there’s talk of facilities potentially allowing visitors back in, we really need to have these protections in place for this population.
Tom: Where do y’all stand on that potential plan for visitors to be allowed back to visit with loved ones?
Amanda: We recognize that the isolation that residents are experiencing is a real challenge. We’ve been really pushing for more virtual visitation and for facilities to make use of funds to purchase tablets and other devices to really help with virtual visitation. Going forward, I think it’s going to have to be a real delicate balance to, you know, we want residents and family members to be reunited in person. At the same time to virus is a very active, numbers are spiking in Texas and this population is at serious risk.
Tom: Do you think it’s possible to do that safely, or do you have serious concerns about that?
Amanda: We think it’s possible to do it safely, but that includes having a plan for regular testing, particularly for staff, but also for residents. Those staff leave the facility every day, go out into the community, and come back in.
Tom: What do you wish city, state and the federal government had done to get ahead of this?
Amanda: We knew back in February with the nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, that this population was going to be hit really hard. The steps weren’t taken to make sure that there was adequate PPE, that there was adequate staffing, that the resources were there to protect this vulnerable population.
Tom: What does the AARP think about granting immunity to these nursing homes for the deaths that are happening on their watch?
Amanda: We think that Congress and the state should not let nursing homes off the hook for abuse, neglect or death.
Tom: Do you believe that the state should go ahead and release information on which nursing homes have had positive COVID-19 tests?
Amanda: Absolutely, that’s something that we have been asking the state, the counties and the cities to do. We think that information is really important for residents, for family members, for the community, for resources, to make sure that we’re allocating resources to where they need to be.