Montgomery, Ala. —On Wednesday, May 20, AARP Alabama State Director Candace Williams sent the following letter to Governor Kay Ivey, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama Department of Senior Services Commissioner Jean Brown.
Dear Governor Ivey, Dr. Harris and Commissioner Brown:
AARP Alabama, on behalf of its 420,000 members and older adults in the state, appreciates your leadership and the significant amount of work the state has undertaken to address the
COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented public health and economic crisis we face as a state and nation. While severe health impacts of COVID-19 can occur across ages, the data has
shown that it disproportionately impacts older adults worldwide. Sadly, Alabama is no different. Over 81 percent of Alabamians who have died from the virus are over 65. It is even more heartbreaking when you see the effect of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable citizens – those living in long-term care facilities or adult residential care facilities.
Transparency of information on COVID-19 cases is critical to fighting the disease. AARP urges the state to publicly release the names of long-term care facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff on a daily basis on the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website’s coronavirus dashboard. During the current public health crisis, this information is essential to protect residents and for families to make safe and informed choices about where their loved ones will receive care. There are more than 31,000 residents in Alabama’s nursing homes, and Alabamians deserve accurate and consistent data.
In addition to providing transparency of facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19, much more is needed to protect residents and staff from this disease and keep families informed and engaged. We ask that you immediately implement a comprehensive, coordinated and actionable plan to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other adult residential care facilities that includes the following:
- We ask that you prioritize universal testing of all residents and staff at Alabama’s nursing homes, regardless of whether or not they are symptomatic. The only way to truly protect the health and safety of residents and staff is for facilities to have ready access to testing.
- Immediately assess all licensed facilities to evaluate their needs and ability to provide necessary care to residents, ensure adequate staffing, and train staff on testing, infection control procedures and isolation protocols. Consider making use of ‘strike teams’ that include local health workers and National Guard members to carry out this mission, and expand the presence of the Department of Public Health.
- Require adult residential facilities to offer and facilitate regular virtual visitation between residents and family members in order to combat social isolation that may occur in the absence of in-person visits. Virtual visitation provides family members the ability to communicate by video and audio, which can increase the emotional well-being of the resident and provide comfort to family caregivers that their loved ones are receiving the care that they need.
Long-term care facilities are ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus, and we thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent challenge. Families are looking for swift action to protect
the health and safety of their loved ones living in adult residential facilities. AARP stands ready to help in any way that we can. If you have any questions, please contact me or AARP Advocacy Director Anna Merrill Pritchett by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (334) 462-3011.
Candace C. Williams, State Director
CC: Dave White, Governor’s Senior Policy Advisor
Carolyn Bern, ADPH Director of Governmental Affairs & Community Relations
Adam Thompson, ADSS Deputy Commissioner
Virginia Bell, State LTC Ombudsman
For media inquiries, contact Jamie Harding at JHarding@aarp.org or (205) 470-1265.