Walorski Highlights Indiana Efforts to Protect Nursing Home Residents from COVID-19

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Walorski Highlights Indiana Efforts to Protect Nursing Home Residents from COVID-19

Other States Endangered Vulnerable Populations with Policies Requiring Facilities to Accept Infected Patients

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) today highlighted the State of Indiana’s efforts to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19 even as other states endangered vulnerable populations by requiring long-term care facilities to accept COVID-19 patients. Nursing home residents make up only 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 42 percent of American deaths from coronavirus.

“States should be coordinating and learning best practices from each other,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “In my home state of Indiana, the governor developed strike teams to dispatch medical experts to assist facilities with containment and logistics, including separating positive patients from the general population. The overwhelming evidence makes clear that just about the worst possible thing anyone can do is to knowingly introduce coronavirus into a nursing home. And yet, that was essentially the policy of states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan, which mandated that nursing homes admit patients who tested positive for coronavirus. Such an abject failure of policy should invite tough questions for those policymakers.”

Video of Congresswoman Walorski speaking at today’s hearing of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis can be found here, and her remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to our witnesses for being here.

“The coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole world, but there is no question its impact has been felt disproportionately in some populations. Nowhere is that more evident than at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. We know that coronavirus spreads quickest indoors and at close quarters. We know that those most at risk for complications or even death from coronavirus are the elderly and those with underlying conditions. Sadly, these facilities combine all those worst-case factors in one place.

“One nursing home owner in New Jersey summed up the challenge as this: “You dream about having zero cases, but the reality of how this travels, it was a matter of when, not if … When it gets into your building, it hits hard … It’s a vicious disease. It doesn’t give up for a second.”

“The numbers illustrate this sad reality. Avik Roy, who we heard from last week, found nursing home residents make up only 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 42 percent of coronavirus deaths. This is a global challenge, too. This relatively small percentage of the population accounts for 38 percent of coronavirus deaths in England and Wales, 49 percent in Sweden, and 82 percent in Canada.

“Since the beginning of this crisis, the Trump Administration has issued 13 different memoranda and guidance to assist states and nursing homes in protecting their residents. States should also be coordinating and learning best practices from each other. For instance, in my home state of Indiana, the governor developed strike teams to dispatch medical experts to assist facilities with containment and logistics, including separating positive patients from the general population. As the nursing home owner I quoted earlier said, it’s naïve to think there won’t be cases at nursing homes. There will. That makes rapid response key, and I’m glad Governor Holcomb took action.

“The overwhelming evidence makes clear that just about the worst possible thing anyone can do is to knowingly introduce coronavirus into a nursing home. And yet, that was essentially the policy of states like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan, which mandated that nursing homes admit patients who tested positive for coronavirus.

“Such an abject failure of policy should invite tough questions for those policymakers. Instead, the national media rewarded New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with glowing talk about being a presidential contender, while Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer received vice presidential buzz. The media was quick to condemn Florida for opening its beaches and even branded Georgia’s reopening as “an experiment in human sacrifice.” Yet after sending coronavirus patients into nursing homes full of vulnerable residents, Governor Cuomo was laughing it up with his brother in softball interviews on CNN.

“What’s the media’s excuse for looking the other way? It’s hard to say they dropped the ball when so many didn’t even bother to pick it up in the first place. But I’m glad we can at least ask these questions today.”

Walorski represents the 2nd Congressional District of Indiana, serving as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

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