June 26, 2020
For Immediate Release
Raleigh NC - The Raleigh News and Observer published a revealing story highlighting Governor Roy Cooper's complete failure to address outbreaks at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. As a reminder, the majority of COVID deaths in NC have come from congregate living settings, even though they only comprise one percent of the population.
Read the full story here: News and Observer "NC planned to test all nursing-home residents, staff for the coronavirus. What Happened?"
Read Excerpts Here
Lauren Zingraff, the executive director of Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care, an advocacy group based in Raleigh, is frustrated by the state's response.
She said the continued lack of universal testing is exacerbating another crisis — loneliness, which researchers have found is correlated with cognitive decline and early death. Regulators have barred visitors from nursing homes in most circumstances for months.
"Literally — I say this without any facetiousness or sarcasm — literally, people are dying from the depression and the loneliness and the isolation and the sadness,' Zingraff said in an interview with The News & Observer. 'This idea that everyone has a tablet to Zoom with their family member or FaceTime with their family member is a fallacy."
Friends of Residents has been calling for widespread testing in nursing homes, especially those with low-quality ratings, since April. Compared to other states, Zingraff said, "We are so behind the curve."
As early as May 14, state health officials said they planned to test all residents and staff members in North Carolina's more than 400 nursing homes, according to a newsletter sent to members of the NC. Health Care Facilities Association, a trade group. Yet the details of North Carolina's testing plan remain opaque more than a month later.
By the end of May, some states were finishing up the first round of testing. Each state's approach varied. Some sent test kits to facilities. Others encouraged partnerships with private labs. Several states have ordered additional rounds of tests. Maryland, for example, requires nursing home staff to be tested once a week. Executive orders in New York and Texas say staff must be tested twice as often.
While there are still questions about testing intervals, researchers agree that widespread testing is key to preventing so many more unnecessary deaths in elder-care facilities. "There is no way to stop the spread of the virus unless universal testing is done for all staff and residents on a regular basis," Harrington said.