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AARP Florida calls on Florida Leaders to Focus on Vulnerable Elders As Reopening Effort Proceeds

Elder-Care Facilities Represent 40 percent or More of COVID-19 Deaths, Despite Representing Less Than 1 Percent of All Floridians

Portrait of a senior woman
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AARP’s Florida State Director, Jeff Johnson, issued the following statement today on AARP’s concerns about the potential impact on the most vulnerable older Floridians as the state reopens:

“As state and local leaders consider plans to reopen Florida communities, AARP Florida cautions that, even as trends for the general population may be improving, older Floridians continue to face challenges that need to be considered in reopening plans.”

“While statistics on deaths, hospitalizations, and percentage of positive tests appear to be in decline for the general population, the last week has shown how vulnerable the residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are to this virus.”

“Since the outbreak began in Florida, just under one in four deaths caused by the virus originated in a long-term care facility. In eight of the last nine days, long-term care facility-related fatalities account for 40 percent or more of total fatalities, despite representing only three-quarters of one percent of Florida’s population.”

“Reopening other parts of the economy will expose long-term care workers, and by extension residents, to more opportunities to contract the virus and spread it within facilities unless preventive measures are taken.”

“The White House ‘Guidelines for Opening up America Again’ include in its initial criteria an expectation for a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

“To ensure that Florida communities continue to avoid the surge in hospitalizations that has crippled other parts of the world, AARP Florida strongly recommends that state leaders mandate a regimen at long-term care facilities that tests workers regularly for the virus before they enter a facility. On-site, quick-turn testing can best prevent the coronavirus from being introduced to fragile long-term care residents.”

“Furthermore, once testing is available at that scale, family members can be tested and then given opportunities to visit with residents who have been isolated for more than a month. AARP Florida has heard from many members that family members in long-term care facilities are suffering physical, mental and emotional deterioration due to the extended separation from family visitors and isolation from other residents. An intensive focus on testing within facilities should have as a goal reintroducing activities including visitors that can combat the effects of extended isolation without exposing residents to the coronavirus.”

“In addition to prioritizing measures to protect Florida residents of long-term care facilities, AARP Florida cautions employers that employees who are either in high-risk categories or are caregivers for those at high risk may need to continue to work remotely until a later phase of the reopening process. Those businesses that have used telework successfully during the past weeks must not use reopening as an opportunity to discriminate against at-risk employees and family caregivers.”

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