UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Calls on Governors to Require Comprehensive COVID-19 Testing for All Nursing Home Residents and Staff
Testing Needed to Protect Health of Older Adults, Including those with Alzheimer’s
Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2020) – UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) today urged the nation’s governors to require comprehensive COVID-19 testing of all residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care communities.
In a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, chair of the National Governor’s Association, UsA2 called on the NGA to encourage governors to require COVID-19 testing of all residents and staff of long-term care communities to protect the health and safety of many of the nation’s most vulnerable residents. Hogan issued an executive order in Maryland mandating comprehensive testing of nursing home residents and staff.
More than 1.3 Americans reside in long-term care communities such as nursing homes and assisted living communities, which have been hot spots for COVID-19 infections and deaths across the country. Among states reporting data, long-term care communities account for at least a third of all COVID-19 deaths in 26 states, and more than half of all COVID-19 deaths in 14 of those states.
“Testing some patients and staff is not sufficient,” wrote Russ Paulsen, UsA2 chief operating officer. “Much of the challenge in controlling COVID-19 transmission results from asymptomatic transmission of the virus.”
On May 11, the White House urged governors to test all nursing home residents and staff within two weeks. But a review by The Associated Press found that at least half of the states are not going to meet White House’s deadline and some are not trying to do so.
A UsA2 survey released Friday on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Alzheimer’s community showed that 100 percent of the survey respondents with loved ones in long-term care communities support comprehensive testing of all residents and staff.
Long-term care community residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, UsA2 said in its letter. Residents with dementia may lack the cognitive capacity to follow many of the widely-recognized means used by others to avoid becoming infected, such as reporting symptoms, remaining in their rooms, eating independently, or maintaining appropriate 6-foot social distancing from others.
In addition, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, even in its earliest stages, often rely on loved ones to be their advocate and to notice changes in health and behavior. However, the UsA2 survey found that more than 90 percent of caregivers cannot visit loved ones living in a long-term care community due to restrictions on visitors.
“Making comprehensive testing of all residents and staff in long-term care communities a reality will require action from both state and federal officials,” Paulsen wrote. “We have urged Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar and senior HHS officials to provide leadership and resources to help states implement comprehensive testing. Neither the federal nor state governments can do this alone, and we believe more states also must step up on testing.”
In the May 4 Azar letter, UsA2 urged the federal government to address varying testing policies and practices among facilities and across states by establishing uniform national testing guidelines for testing of all staff and residents of these facilities and making the testing possible.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) is a disruptive advocacy and research-focused organization that is pushing for expanding treatments and accelerating towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. UsA2’s transformative programming is laser-focused on proactive brain health across the lifespan and understanding what matters most across the lived experiences of those affected by Alzheimer’s in the service of preventing, treating and curing this disease. We are working to ensure that all communities have their voices heard and get a chance to be brain healthy from the earliest years while building resistance against possible cognitive decline