With several states beginning to reopen businesses but COVID-19 still a threat, LeadingAge on Thursday unveiled a five-point plan of actions it deems essential to protecting older Americans and frontline healthcare workers who live or work in senior living communities and other settings.

Aging services providers across the continuum are “crying out for help” but have been ignored, with no relief in sight, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said during a media call where the plan was announced.

“An entire generation is at risk if immediate action is not taken to prioritize older adults. They’ve been left to fend for themselves in the greatest pandemic our country has seen,” Sloan said. “Our leaders did not plan for, listen to or prioritize the health of older adults.”

Leading Age’s “Older American Lives At Stake: Five Essential Actions” calls on policymakers to take fundamental steps to protect older adults and the people who care for them:

  1. Assurance that states will not reopen without first ensuring that older Americans are safe and protected.
  2. Immediate access to ample personal protective equipment for all care providers — not just nursing homes — that serve older Americans. Policymakers must act now and put these providers on the same priority tier as hospitals, LeadingAge said.
  3. On-demand access to rapid-results testing for older adults and their care providers. Aging services providers also must be on the same priority tier as hospitals, the organization said, adding that results are needed in minutes, not days or weeks.
  4. Recognition for the frontline workers serving older Americans in assisted living communities; affordable housing buildings; home and community-based settings, including hospice programs; and nursing homes — just as hospital workers and others who have kept America running have been recognized.
  5. Funding and support for aging service providers across the continuum of care. In its next relief package, LeadingAge said, Congress must allocate $100 billion to cover COVID-19 needs and provide critical support for aging services, including hazard pay for frontline workers, federal housing assistance, support to deliver telehealth, access to loans, Medicaid increases and administrative relief.

“Older adults are at great risk wherever they live,” said Danny Stricker, president and CEO of St. Louis, MO-based Ascension Living, a not-for-profit senior living provider. “If actions are not made to protect them, we risk losing more of this incredible generation.”

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • In its first-quarter earnings call, Sabra Health Care REIT reported that admissions have continued through the pandemic, but move-ins are down in its senior housing communities. Sabra operators have received or expect to receive about $320 million in assistance under various state and federal assistance programs. For more information about the call, see sister media brand McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
  • Brentwood, TN-based Diversicare Healthcare Services held its first-quarter earnings call on Thursday. For more information, see sister media brand McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
  • The Colorado Unified Command Center has launched a Residential Care Task Force to implement actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in all high-density environments serving older adults and people with disabilities. In Colorado, more than half of the COVID-10-related deaths have been among older adults and people with disabilities in congregate living settings.
  • Minnesota has unveiled a five-point “battle plan” to address COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. The plan includes systematic testing and screening, using state stockpiles of PPE and greater coordination with local healthcare systems and public health authorities.
  • Avamere at Rio Rancho and Avamere at Roswell, two senior living communities in New Mexico, received 3D-printed masks and 50 face shields each from the University of New Mexico. A staff member whose mother is a resident at one of the communities facilitated the donation. Avamere Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Burns is a UNM alum.
  • Denver-based architecture and design firm OZ Architecture released a report Thursday outlining design considerations to reduce the spread of disease and infection in communities for older adults. “Designing for Emergency Preparedness Insight Report” lays out design solutions that can be implemented during an emergency, giving operators a look into the future of design for older adult communities.
  • Virginia House Delegate Patrick A. Hope is pushing his state to be more transparent about coronavirus outbreaks, particularly at long-term care facilities. Hope, an attorney who works in the medical field, also called out the Virginia Department of Health for not scaling up testing in vulnerable communal settings. 
  • A Florida assisted living facility’s early surveillance testing plan kept the facility COVID-19-free for two months. Doug Adkins, chief executive officer at Dayspring Village, a North Florida mental health assisted living facility, called the state’s response to the pandemic an “unmitigated disaster.”
  • Louisville Healthcare CEO Council’s Co-Immunity Project is expanding to long-term care and, ultimately, healthcare workers. The Co-Immunity Project is a widespread virus testing program to help healthcare workers determine whether they have been exposed to COVID-19, to measure immunity, and to identify those with the best immune responses as donors of high quality plasma. The city is home to Signature Healthcare, Kindred Healthcare and PharMerica, as well as local companies Hosparus Health, Nazareth Home and Masonic Homes Kentucky.