A leader of the House Appropriations Committee has called on the Department of Health and Human Services to place senior living communities on the same playing field as nursing homes in the prioritization of resources to fight COVID-19.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX)

In a blog in “The Hill,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the ranking member of the committee, called on HHS to “immediately start providing help and resources to senior living facilities.”

Granger said she has worked with Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) to ensure that stimulus money was provided to help care for older Americans but that HHS has “not acted quickly enough” in administering some of these programs and that senior living communities still have not been prioritized for financial relief.

“The administration did a good job of prioritizing nursing homes early on in the pandemic so that they could get the personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies they needed. But many of our elderly don’t live in nursing homes; they live in senior living facilities, like Sagora Senior Living in my congressional district,” Granger wrote. “We need to focus on getting resources to help these vulnerable Americans. And we need to do it now before it’s too late.”

Granger relayed what senior living providers already know — they have had to source their own supplies and testing capabilities, incurring significant expenses. She called on HHS and the administration to prioritize all senior living communities for PPE, testing and receipt of a vaccine when one is available.

“They should have the same access to rapid results testing kits and supplies of PPE and funding as nursing homes,” Granger wrote. “This would allow these senior living facilities to first test both residents and staff to find out who is COVID-19-positive, and then to use PPE supplies to combat the disease and contain its spread.”

Granger stressed the importance of providing senior living operators with the “tools they need to fight the disease,” calling it a “basic measure of fairness that senior living facilities be treated the same way nursing homes are by HHS.”

“Our senior living facilities are home to the Greatest Generation,” she wrote. “They deserve our greatest respect during this pandemic. And that’s exactly what we must give them now before it’s too late.”

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • One media outlet presents what it sees as the pros and cons of federal COVID-19 liability protections for long-term care operators and other businesses desired by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Here is a COVID-19 chart of state immunity statutes.
  • California has deemed COVID-19 testing to be an urgent healthcare service during the pandemic and a medically necessary basic healthcare service for healthcare service plan enrollees who are essential workers — including those in congregate care settings — regardless of whether they have symptoms or a known or suspected exposure to the virus.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said all assisted living communities and nursing homes, (including those with COVID-19 cases) in the state have been checked to ensure they had working generators onsite to continue providing care as Isaias, which weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm over the weekend, hit the state. 
  • Virginia has become the first in the nation to approve workplace safety standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Application of standards is based on the risk exposure level. Included in the high-risk category are skilled nursing, assisted living and nursing homes. 
  • Arizona’s long-term care facilities need real-time testing, not a task force to provide recommendations on visitation once it resumes, according to an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic. The opportunity now is to restore in-person visitation as quickly as possible through real-time testing.
  • UK researchers are testing robots to ease the social care burden at assisted living communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambient Assisted Living initially will focus on finding solutions for priority groups — including those who have lost their vision or hearing, or who have dementia — to ease pressure on care workers. U.S. operators are conducting a similar study.
  • Western Carolina University’s Rapid Center spent the summer using 3D printing technology to develop personal protective equipment for healthcare workers in the community. Among the companies receiving face shields was Brookdale Senior Living.