In the year It was Mother’s Day in May 2020, and an elderly woman passed away in a Rhode Island nursing home. Her children couldn’t visit because of Covid, and Adelina Ramos, her certified nursing assistant, who was eager to comfort her by her bedside, had to leave even though she saw the woman was slipping.

She had 25 other patients to care for that day.

“It really broke my heart,” Ramos said. “Their families trust us to take care of their loved ones. I cannot express how painful it is when we are forced to make such choices.

In a hearing before the House Subcommittee on the Corona Virus Crisis on Wednesday, she spoke about the devastation caused by the outbreak.

Although Covid is causing little panic now, especially given the protection afforded by improved vaccines and treatments, older Americans are still having their lives upended — and, sadly, completely — by new outbreaks.

While the rest of the country looks for a new normal, millions of vulnerable Americans are still at risk and sleeping. Now they are navigating a world broken by the ongoing virus outbreak, a shortage of care workers and the loss of more than a million people in two years.

Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday dropped its recommendation for hospitals and nursing homes to wear masks, except during periods of high transmission, or when providers are caring for patients with moderate to severe immunosuppression.

The move will make it more difficult for the most vulnerable, especially the elderly, to safely navigate health care facilities and long-term care facilities.

David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said prioritizing older Americans is “above all else” at this time. “In general, the team is very difficult during the pandemic, but in many ways … they are considered.

People over 50 are over 50 93% of covid deaths In the US

“We’re still seeing hundreds of deaths a day, and they’re occurring disproportionately among older Americans,” said Teresa Andrasfai, a postdoctoral researcher in gerontology at the University of Southern California.

A female medical worker administers a vaccine to an elderly woman in a wheelchair.
The coronavirus has lowered life expectancy for all Americans, but the changes are biggest among people of color. Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Reuters

Life expectancy has declined for all Americans, but there are changes. It is greater Among the communities of color, there is Andrasfai. “Native Americans had the greatest decline in life expectancy, followed by the Latino population and then the black population.”

In the year By February 2021, older Americans who contracted Covid were 1,000 times more likely to die than teenagers, McKinsey said. Report “The advent of safe and effective vaccines will make that isolation pain a time-limited problem,” he predicted.

Yet for many, stigma and anxiety about the epidemic persist, especially as the protection afforded by vaccinations wanes without incentives and new variants emerge.

A relatively high vaccination rate has helped the death rate in the 2020 to 2021 age group drop slightly. close-record Increase in elderly deaths.

A total of 95% of Americans over the age of 65 have received at least one Covid vaccine. But then, the Cover It starts to fall quickly. Among those fully vaccinated in this age group, 70.8% received their first booster. But only 40% That’s what he said. The team went on to find secondary incentives.

That means a total of 14.9 million older Americans are up-to-date on vaccinations, compared to 57.5 million who were willing to get the first vaccine. Incentive rates are even lower among Americans ages 50 to 64.

This could have serious implications for their security going forward, even if the remaining precautions are lifted across the country.

In nursing homes, only 57% are residents and 43% are employees up to date on their vaccinations. are rates. The lowest In Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Texas.

Two medical workers care for an elderly woman in a wheelchair.
In nursing homes, 57% of residents and 43% of staff are current on their vaccinations. Photo: Yuki Iwamura/Reuters

Less than 1% of Americans live in long-term care facilities, however one fifth Almost all deaths from Covid-19 are linked to nursing homes. More than 200,000 Since the beginning of the epidemic, residents and workers have been dying from the corona virus.

“Residents, their families and caregivers have long known about the demise of America’s nursing homes, but this issue has been largely ignored by the general public. “Covid has changed that,” Grabowski testified at the hearing.

The Council’s Corona Virus Subcommittee Listed. In the first months of the outbreak, for-profit nursing homes showed “deplorable” conditions that led to poor health and death.

Nurses and nurses’ aides cared for up to 38 patients during their shift. In the year In April 2020, at a facility in Nevada, a single nurse covered two entire floors while a resident waited four hours for a small drop of water and another resident who vomited on herself was not cleaned for at least two days, according to a House report. .

But at least 32 states They passed legislation that made it difficult for residents or their families to sue long-term care facilities for such treatment.

Some staff shortages may be due to covid issues among staff It is forbidden Partly with better precautions. But one nursing home worker said the corporations want to save money by not hiring more workers, even if they need them.

Long-term care facilities were plagued by staff shortages and low morale before the pandemic began, and Covid has sharply deepened the rifts in how America cares for its senior population.

“Nursing homes are already understaffed, under-resourced. “So when you put a profit on nursing homes to take a couple more dollars out of these communities, it disrupts care,” said Ashwin Kotwal, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. .

But nursing home residents aren’t the only ones affected by Covid – and the pandemic’s toll isn’t limited to the virus itself.

The epidemic has caused stress and loneliness, which affects mental and physical health. In the year About 1.6 million adults over 70 were homebound in 2019, but that number will more than double to 4.2 million by 2020. It increases Risks of disease and death.

Age was the biggest risk factor for severe consequences from Covid, but loneliness worsened health, the Commonwealth Fund said. survey Held between March and June 2021. Pandemic disruptions have limited and delayed access to health care, and exacerbated “prominent” social and economic challenges.

An old woman walks down a corridor.
The epidemic caused stress and loneliness, affecting mental and physical health. Photo: Eric Riesberg/AP

“Compared to their counterparts in other survey countries, seniors in the U.S. have suffered the most economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, losing more work or using all or most of their savings,” the report said. Economic hardship among older Americans is four to six times greater than in other countries surveyed, and more likely among Latino and black adults than among white adults in the United States.

Disruption and isolation may continue for those who want to continue with Covid precautions.

“As it puts more emphasis on individual responsibility, moving forward, it’s about making people feel safe to participate in important activities for people who are vulnerable because of low circumstances or age,” Andrasfai said. .

Those activities may include taking public transportation, medical visits, returning to work, or seeing family and friends.

Assessing these risks is a lengthy and tedious process, Kotwal said.

“Even the simplest social activities can make people worry and think too much. I’ve seen a lot of anxiety about how people make these decisions, whether it’s going to grab coffee with their child or play with their grandchildren.

Keeping vaccinations up to date is an important part of protecting those at risk, he said. Instead of looking at this only through the lens of individual safety – being responsible, trying to protect others – we can bring it into the community space.

Vaccination clinics and vaccination mandates in health systems and long-term care facilities are “really effective,” Grabowski said. About 87% of residents and staff in nursing homes are vaccinated because of clinics and mandates — but those requirements have not been amended to include incentives.

He said the expanded federal mandate for workers to take incentive measures would help. And additional immunization clinics for facilities, as well as outreach campaigns to homebound adults and others with access problems, could increase immunization rates and protect seniors this winter.

“This is very important,” said Grabowski. “Either way, let’s make this as easy as possible.”

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