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Arizona AARP wants more focus on nursing homes as virus metrics lower

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — COVID-19 deaths and infections are coming down in skilled nursing homes in Arizona, but the state’s chapter of the AARP says an eighth of them have under a week’s supply of personal protective equipment on hand and a fifth of nursing homes are short-staffed.

“The federal government has stepped up and gave them additional resources,” Dana Marie Kennedy, AARP’s state director, said. “We want to make sure that those resources are going directly to those direct-care workers.”

Kennedy wants Gov. Doug Ducey and state legislators to release more nursing home data and provide additional dollars and regulations to help residents.

“Unfortunately, they’re spending more time auditing ballots than they are auditing what’s happened in these long-term care facilities,” Kennedy said, referring to the state Senate that will start its review of Maricopa County’s November election results on Monday.

“We’ve watched the drama that’s played out,” Kennedy said. “Why don’t they put that time and energy into auditing our facilities?”

Kennedy says she’ll continue to push to prioritize regular and ongoing COVID-19 testing and adequate PPE for residents and staff—as well as for inspectors and any visitors.

She also wants to see improved transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities, communication with families about discharges and transfers and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.

Kennedy is also pushing to ensure access of in-person visitation is following federal and state guidelines for safety and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents, while also wanting to establish minimum nursing staffing standards and provide supplemental staff wages and benefits during the COVID-19 emergency.

AARP Arizona’s dashboard reports deaths of residents in nursing homes dropped from 82 to 13 in the four weeks leading up to March 21. In that same period, resident infections fell from 444 to 105 and new staff infections declined from 275 to 45.

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