Industry associations are supporting the transparency requested by three members of Congress who have asked 11 assisted living companies to detail their case counts and strategies related to COVID-19 — including their use of personal protective equipment and testing — but the associations also continue to call on the federal government to prioritize assisted living operators for PPE and other resources to battle the disease.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Senate Aging Committees; Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-MA); and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in a letter dated April 29 and released publicly on Friday, asked the CEOs of the assisted living companies to share the total number of communities, residents and staff members at each company as well as the number and severity of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff members and the communities in which any cases have occurred; details related to testing and the reporting of results; sick leave, family leave, medical leave and hazard pay offered to employees; visitation policies; and the use of PPE.
“Assisted living facilities deserve particular scrutiny in this pandemic because they share several of the same characteristics that increase risks at nursing homes — a population of senior citizens, many with chronic health problems, living and interacting closely together — but they face a significantly less stringent regulatory environment,” they wrote.
National Center for Assisted Living Executive Director Scott Tittle told McKnight’s Senior Living that NCAL appreciates that members of Congress are showing concern for the assisted living sector of long-term care and that NCAL hopes to work with the letter-writers as well as the administration and state and local officials “to get these heroic caregivers the resources they need to keep this virus at bay.”
“Assisted living communities desperately need additional personal protective equipment, testing, staffing and funding to fight COVID-19,” he said.
LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said that the organization “supports transparency and communication in all care settings serving older adults, including assisted living, where tragically, thousands of at-risk adults have fallen ill or died.”
“Public health officials have in no uncertain terms identified older adults as being at high risk of falling ill from the novel coronavirus,” she said. “We have urged policymakers for months to prioritize access to personal protective equipment and testing for older adults in all care settings, including assisted living, in order to contain the spread of this deadly disease.”
In a joint message, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association emphasized that “[t]he senior living industry plays a critical role in this healthcare crisis, caring for our seniors and employees to prevent this virus from entering our communities and mitigating spread when and if it occurs.”
“We certainly recognize and support the essential need for transparency; it is critical to maintaining the valued trust of senior living residents, families, employees, and the public,” the organizations continued. “Our members have been and continue to communicate regularly with residents, families and other stakeholders and continue to report COVID-19 cases and data promptly to their state agencies as required and called for in [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance.”
Argentum and ASHA said that they will work with the letter-writers and their staff members to understand how the organizations can support their request. “However, it is important to note that this pandemic is far from over, and our priority at this time remains supporting our members in caring for their residents and staff,” they said. “We continue to ask Congress and the administration for expanded access to PPE and testing, and other resources, to support the ongoing care and support in their communities.”