The White House’s recommendation that all states test nursing home residents and staff members for the novel coronavirus over the next two weeks, and President Trump’s comment that “we have prevailed” on COVID-19 testing — both made Monday — leave several questions unanswered, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said Monday evening.  

One of them, she said: “What help does this provide to millions of vulnerable adults cared for in non-nursing home settings?”

“After months of pleading for help with access to testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), nursing homes and other aging services providers were desperately awaiting word from the White House today that their voices had been heard — and that help would be on the way,” she said. “Instead, we heard that ‘we have prevailed’ on testing, but wishing does not make it so.”

The president, in his afternoon remarks, “barely” mentioned nursing home residents, and he “made no mention of those in other care settings,” Sloan noted.

“In the middle of a massive shortage of testing and PPE in nursing homes, assisted living, and other care settings for older adults, a White House phone call with governors to encourage more testing for nursing homes and an offer of token support is literally the least that can be done,” she said, lamenting that policymakers have not prioritized PPE and testing for assisted living communities, nursing homes and other care providers that need them.

AARP opposes lawsuit immunity for long-term care providers

Meanwhile, the AARP on Monday sent a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asking them to reject proposals to grant immunity from COVID-19-related lawsuits to assisted living, skilled nursing and other long-term care providers.

“AARP strongly urges you to protect the safety of residents, including by maintaining the rights of residents and their families to seek legal redress to hold facilities accountable when residents are harmed, neglected or abused,” wrote Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer.

Although some circumstances may be beyond the providers’ control, she added, “it is essential that long-term care providers, as well as healthcare providers more broadly, remain responsible for any negligent actions that fail to protect the health and lives of residents.”

AARP sent the letter ahead of the committee’s hearing at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday ET on the topic “Examining Liability During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

National associations such as LeadingAge and the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, and state associations representing operators, including groups from Florida, California and other states, reportedly are advocating for such immunity. Cory Kallheim, vice president of legal affairs and social accountability at LeadingAge, told NPR that the immunity sought, if granted, would not protect providers in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct.