We con­tinue to fail to pro­tect the el­derly in nurs­ing homes from COVID-19

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

I couldn’t agree more with Bob Gallo of AARP Illi­nois, who wrote in the Sun-Times last week that our elected lead­ers must do more now to pro­tect nurs­ing home res­i­dents and their staff against COVID-19. There should be a stronger ef­fort ev­ery­where to sup­port skilled nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

While mea­sures to com­bat COVID have been in place since the be­gin­ning of the pan­demic, all the masks, gloves and dis­in­fec­tant in the world can do only so much given the great dan­ger in con­gre­gate set­tings — com­mu­nity spread.

Con­sider the ex­am­ple of Ma­jor League Base­ball. The league has at­tempted an elab­o­rate re­open­ing ex­per­i­ment. But ex­ten­sive in­fec­tion con­trol pro­ce­dures, daily rapid test­ing and strict phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing have not pre­vented an out­break of COVID-19 among play­ers.

Pro­fes­sional ath­letes — young men in pris­tine health — could not be pro­tected de­spite lim­it­less re­sources. How can we ex­pect that nurs­ing homes would be any dif­fer­ent? The an­swer is, we can’t.

As stud­ies by Har­vard and Univer­sity of Chicago re­searchers have shown, COVID-19 gains a foothold in nurs­ing homes when­ever the virus is ram­pant in the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity. At the end of the day, even when the strictest in­fec­tion con­trol mea­sures are put in place, nurs­ing homes are con­gre­gate set­tings and home to the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our so­ci­ety.

Now more than ever, we call on elected lead­ers and so­ci­ety in gen­eral to put a greater pri­or­ity on the safety of the el­derly and their care­tak­ers. As Gallo wrote, it is truly a mat­ter of life or death. Pat Com­stock, Health Care Coun­cil of Illi­nois, di­rec­tor of COVID-19 Re­sponse

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