January 8 letter from State Director Kathleen Connell and State President Phil Zarlengo
Dear Governor Raimondo:
AARP Rhode Island, on behalf of our 132,000 members and all older Rhode Islanders, appreciates the efforts you have undertaken to address the unprecedented public health and economic crisis we face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines are shipped across the country, it will be critical to ramp up production and distribution so that everyone who wishes to be vaccinated can do so. Until that time, we acknowledge the many challenges the state must confront in determining how to equitably, safely and effectively distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and we offer the following recommendations.
Since the start of the pandemic, over 95 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 50 and older. The data clearly show that the older people are, the higher risk they face if they contract COVID-19. Given that older individuals are at a greater risk of death from COVID-19, we strongly urge you to ensure that Rhode Islanders age 50 and older are prioritized to receive a vaccine. These individuals must be given priority access to vaccines, in addition to those individuals receiving care in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
We also strongly urge the state to prioritize those individuals who receive long-term services and supports in their own homes and communities. For years, the long-term care system has been shifting away from institutional care in nursing homes to home and community-based settings (HCBS). Here in Rhode Island, a significant percentage of long-term services and supports are provided in the home or settings such as assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, veterans homes, and in individuals’ own homes. For this reason, we strongly urge you to prioritize older people receiving care in these additional settings, especially those with underlying conditions, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and the staff who provide care.
In order to increase public awareness of vaccine allocations and improve confidence in a fair distribution process, it is important that all Rhode Islanders have access to accurate and transparent information. For those reasons, we urge you to regularly post on a public website information and updates on vaccine administration including:
- the numbers and percentages of older Rhode Islanders by race and ethnicity, that have been vaccinated:
- the number of Rhode Islanders vaccinated and their age demographics on a daily/weekly basis
- a clear and easy-to-understand schedule of vaccine administration for all populations; and, the process by which individuals may seek and obtain a vaccine.
- the numbers and percentages of long-term care residents, by facility, that have received their first and second doses of vaccines;
- the numbers and percentages of long-term care staff, by facility, that have received their first and second doses of vaccines.
Finally, AARP Rhode Island urges you to ensure that all providers are fully complying with established state procedures for vaccine distribution and prioritization. We urge you to investigate and take swift action against anyone who attempts to commit fraud, including by inappropriately selling the vaccine or intentionally providing vaccines to those who do not meet qualifying criteria in an attempt to circumvent the distribution process. Public confidence in the vaccine and its fair distribution is dependent on the state’s strong oversight and enforcement.
We cannot stress enough how eager people are in Rhode Island to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which offers so much promise for a return to normalcy. There is incredible demand from our members for more information about when and how they can get a vaccine. AARP Rhode Island stands ready to work with you and support your efforts to get information to people as quickly as possible.
State Director, AARP Rhode Island
State President, AARP Rhode Island
COVID Immunity Executive Order Remains in Effect
In a letter dated December 22, 2020, Connell called on the Governo,r asking her to rescind Executive Order 20-21 and its subsequent reauthorizations to grant civil immunity related to COVID-19 for nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) facilities.
“AARP has long fought for the rights of residents in nursing homes and other residential care facilities and to ensure their health, safety, quality of care, and quality of life. ”Connell wrote. “This includes the right of residents and their families to seek legal redress through the courts to hold facilities accountable when residents are harmed, neglected, or abused.
The Governor has not responded.
Read the full letter
AARP National Statement on Distribution of COVID Vaccines
En español | WASHINGTON—AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer Nancy A. LeaMond issued the following statement in response to ongoing COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning and implementation:
“More than 333,000 American lives now have been lost due to COVID, and nearly 95% of those who have died were age 50 or over. Some 40% have been residents and staff in nursing homes. With remarkable speed, vaccines have been developed, and continue to be developed, and now it’s time to put them to good use. AARP is fighting for older Americans to be prioritized in getting COVID-19 vaccines because the science has clearly shown that older people are at higher risk of death.
“We urge public health officials at the state and local level, as they decide on vaccine allocations, to rely on the evidence and make plans backed by science. As production is ramping up, AARP is advocating hard to ensure every older American who wants to get the vaccine can get it. It’s also vital that distribution plans for authorized vaccines are smoothly implemented. There’s no time to waste: it’s time for full-scale mobilization, and any delays or early bottlenecks in distribution systems need to be addressed urgently. AARP remains committed to protecting the health and well-being of our nearly 38 million members and all Americans as we work together to defeat this virus.”
AARP will continue to provide information about COVID-19 vaccines at aarp.org/coronavirus and in Spanish at aarp.org/ElCoronavirus.