Expert: US nursing homes were ‘largely unprepared’ for pandemic

D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ Lawmakers are trying to determine the best course of action to better protect the nation’s senior citizens from COVID-19.

Dr. Tamara Konetzka from the University of Chicago said nursing homes across the country were not prepared for the pandemic.

“The enormity of this pandemic, coupled with the inherent vulnerability of the nursing home setting, has left even the highest quality nursing homes largely unprepared,” Konetzka said.

Konetzka said the country’s nursing homes need direct funding for staff, personal protecting equipment and rapid testing.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said rapid testing will provide residents’ families with vital information.

“Assisted living residents and their families deserve to know whether or not their facilities are experiencing a coronavirus outbreak, just like nursing home residents,” Warren said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said a nursing home workforce without paid leave puts the most vulnerable at risk.

“If we had had national paid leave in place at the beginning of this…[Americans] would’ve been able to keep their jobs, keep their healthcare, and take up to three months leave,” she said.

The United States death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 90,000, with minority communities and health care facilities being hit the hardest.

“Nursing homes with traditionally underserved non-white population are bearing the worst outcomes,” Konetzka said.

“There’s no such thing here as doing too much for our seniors in the grip of this pandemic,” Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, said.

Many lawmakers vowed to keep working to develop legislation that will better protect the nation’s most vulnerable.

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