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Governor Carney must take additional steps to protect residents and staff in Delaware long-term care facilities

Thousands of nursing home and assisted living facilities in the U.S. have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, and Delaware’s own facilities are seeing more than their share. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of May 15, 65 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Delaware were related to the state’s long-term care facilities, among the highest rates in the nation. That is a disturbingly high percentage.

Nobody should be going through what nursing home residents and their families are facing today. That’s why AARP Delaware has been calling for the state to shed light on what is happening in our nursing facilities, and to take swift and decisive action to ensure the health and safety of residents and staff.

As each day of the pandemic passes, family members, staff and communities are becoming increasingly worried about the health and safety of those inside nursing homes. The lack of transparency from state health officials only adds anxiety.

AARP Delaware applauds the State for making testing mandatory in Delaware’s long -term care facilities. We are also urging state leaders to protect long-term care residents with a variety of additional steps including:

  • a plan to ensure safe staffing levels in facilities;
  • mandatory notification of families regarding numbers of cases and deaths among residents and staff;
  • daily, public reporting of the names of nursing homes and assisted living communities with numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths;
  • mandatory facilitation of virtual visits between residents and their loved ones.

Right now, you may have a loved one living in a nursing home with a COVID-19 outbreak and not know it. Without that information, it is nearly impossible to make informed decisions about what’s best for your loved one.

There is no doubt that nursing home and assisted living staff are working diligently to protect the health of their residents, all the while trying to keep themselves and their own families safe and healthy. We applaud them for all they are doing. However, there is also no denying that Delaware’s nursing facilities have become a key source of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Providing transparency on which facilities are fighting COVID-19 outbreaks is critical for public health and the health and well-being of the residents and staff in these facilities. Moreover, residents and family members deserve to have this information for their own health decisions as they consider possible next steps and interventions for their loved ones.

The state should be transparent and regularly release the facility-level information—on positive cases and deaths among residents and staff—that it has already collected.

Many states are disclosing this critical information, even posting it daily on their health department’s website. Long-term care facilities are ground zero in the fight against the coronavirus, and more information and greater transparency is a key tool in this fight.

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COVID-19 has closed all facilities to in-person visitors. While families can’t see their loved ones, they should have information about their care. It’s time for full transparency and disclosure now, because information empowers families to act, speak up and protect those we love.

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