With people age 50 and older accounting for 95 percent of all deaths from COVID-19, AARP Massachusetts State Director Mike Festa and State President Sandra Harris testified at a legislative hearing held before the Joint Committee on COVID-19 & Emergency Preparedness & Management.
“AARP Massachusetts is deeply appreciative for the efforts the legislature and the Baker Administration has undertaken to address the unprecedented public health and economic crisis that we face as a state. In particular, we note the many actions the state has taken on a temporary or emergency basis to help Massachusetts residents better weather this pandemic. We urge you to evaluate those actions and move swiftly to ensure that the benefits they have produced continue once this emergency has subsided.
The situation in nursing homes is particularly dire. In the Commonwealth, residents and staff of nursing homes account for nearly 60% of all COVID-19 deaths, though they are less than 1% of the population.
As the Committee continues its work, AARP Massachusetts urges the legislature and the Baker Administration to:
•Better understand why so many long term care facility residents died in Massachusetts’ nursing homes;
•Make structural and systemic changes to the long term services and supports system; and
•Most importantly, learn how to prevent the state’s tragic outcomes from ever happening again.
We continue to hear from members that they are having challenges scheduling an appointment. There is incredible demand from our members for more information about when, where and how they can get a vaccine,” said Festa.
Harris added, “I cannot stress enough how eager AARP Massachusetts members are to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which offers so much promise for a return to normalcy. And, they want a system they can access to receive vaccines that works for them, and works efficiently.”
AARP Massachusetts offered the following recommendations:
•Prioritize Older Residents – Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 95 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among people age 50 and older. That is why it is critical that older adults be prioritized to receive these vaccines and the associated appointments.
•A Centralized, Equitable, Accessible, User-Friendly, Vaccination Appointment System – While the Vax-Finder website and 211 call center are s a significant step in the right direction, we must work quickly toward a centralized, equitable, accessible, user-friendly, vaccination appointment and confirmation system.
•Transparency of Data and Plans Related to Infections, Hospitalizations, Deaths, Vaccinations, and Appointments–AARP believes residents deserve updated data on the COVID 19 pandemic and the vaccination efforts in the Bay State. AARP MA is pleased the Commonwealth produces daily or weekly reports.
•Enhance and Expand Communication and Outreach Efforts – State and local governments should pro-actively reach out to those eligible for the vaccines.
“Since March 2020, we have joined together to battle coronavirus and its health and economic consequences. We now have the hope of ending the pandemic through widespread vaccination. It’s time for full-scale mobilization so we will finally get back to normal. We urge the Committee to keep searching for the answers, to permanently adopt those measures that have been proven successful, and to take swift action to address the known shortfalls,” said Festa.