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Coronavirus relief funds for nursing homes dry up, raising fears for elderly, vulnerable

As drafts of a renewed coronavirus relief package continue to be debated in and around the White House, the many millions left languishing in nursing homes and elderly care facilities – along with their loved ones forced to communicate with them from afar – are urging swift action.

According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA), almost all the initial $175 billion U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds from the CARES Act – which was signed into law by President Trump in late March – has been spent, and yet coronavirus – officially termed COVID-19 – cases in at least 22 states continues to ascend, ahead of the already daunting cold and flu season.

“HHS has announced distribution plans for 80 percent of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. Health care providers, including nursing homes, will need additional resources to continue its response to the COVID pandemic heading into the cold and flu season, which provides new challenges,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), told Fox News. “COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the elderly – many of whom already have preexisting health conditions and chronic diseases – and the dedicated staff who care for them.”

AMID CORONAVIRUS, 1 IN 4 AMERICANS ARE FAILING TO WASH THEIR HANDS: CDC

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has thus requested an additional $100 billion from the HHS Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by the novel pathogen, and asked “that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities to acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff support.”

Parkinson is urging Congress to provide the additional billions to protect the most susceptible. As of Friday, the notion of further stimulus and relief funding was still the topic of political fodder in Washington.

Parkinson emphasized that the PPE supply shortages and delays in obtaining test results in the first six months of the pandemic “put nursing homes at a serious disadvantage” in keeping COVID out of their facilities.

 “Funding from HHS has helped nursing homes pay for additional staffing, secure vital PPE equipment, and conduct regular testing of residents and staff in response to the COVID pandemic,” he lamented. “We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities by passing another COVID-funding package before they leave town for the elections.”

Indeed, a prominent portion of coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities nationwide – a chilling consequence of the disease, which is known to be especially lethal to adults over the age of 60, and with underlying health ailments. Furthermore, it can rapidly tear through converging, indoor dwellings and be passed on by workers who move from room and room.

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Another Elderly Man Has Died In New Hampshire: COVID-19 Update

CONCORD, NH — Another elderly man has died due to complications from or due to COVID-19, according to state health officials.

The State Joint Information Center reported Sunday that the man was 60 years of age or older and lived in Hillsborough County.

“We offer our sympathies to the family and friends,” the state said.

Officials also announced 53 new positive test results including six children. Twenty-nine of the new test results were males. Sixteen of the new positive test results live in Hillsborough County outside of Manchester and Nashua, 11 reside in Rockingham County, nine live in Nashua, and five live in Merrimack Count.

The state reported no new hospitalizations with 23 currently receiving more extensive care. Six of the new cases had no identified risk factors — meaning they have not traveled, have not had contact with a confirmed case, and are not associated with an outbreak setting.

The new cases bring the state’s count to 8.645 with 7,710 recovering from the virus — about 89 percent.

The state said Sunday that limited information was available due to “a technical update impacting the reporting of lab data.” Because of that, “the percent positive calculation is not included” in the data but information will be posted later and will resume in daily updates moving forward.

About 2,750 people are under public health monitoring by state health officials.

School Data Dashboard Information

Another large New Hampshire city moved into the “substantial” community level transmission metric while another moved out.

According to the state’s school data dashboard, Nashua has entered into the substantial category — due to having 100.7 cases per 100,000 people during the past two weeks. Manchester was listed as substantial Saturday but moved out of the category Sunday. Manchester, Hillsborough County, and Strafford County are in the “moderate” category while the rest of the state is still in the minimal category.

Other data was not updated on the state’s dashboards Sunday.

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Stop The Spread Of COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus is spread through respiratory droplets, usually through coughing and sneezing, and exposure to others who are sick or might be showing symptoms.

Health officials emphasize residents should follow these recommendations:

  • Avoid any domestic and international travel, especially on public transportation such as buses, trains, and airplanes.

  • Practice social distancing. Stay at least 6 feet from other people, including distancing while in waiting areas or lines.

  • When you can’t practice 6 feet of social distancing, wear a face covering.

  • Anyone who is told to self-quarantine and stay at home due to exposure to a person with confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 needs to stay home and not go out into public places.

  • If you are 60 years or older or have chronic and underlying health conditions, you need to stay home and not go out.

  • Avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.

  • Employers should work from home as much as possible.

  • There is increasing evidence that the virus can survive for hours or possibly days

Elderly hit so hard by COVID-19 because of lower levels of certain immune cells

Elderly people who get COVID-19 have lower levels of important immune cells, which may explain why they are more likely than younger patients to have severe symptoms or die, new research suggests.

For the study, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 30 people with mild COVID-19, ranging in age from the mid-20s to late-90s. Compared with healthy people, all of the COVID-19 patients had lower numbers of T cells — which target virus-infected cells — in their blood.

But COVID-19 patients over 80 years of age had fewer T cells than those who were younger, and so-called “killer” T cells in older patients produced lower amounts of cytotoxic molecules that find and kill infected cells, the investigators found.

This age-related difference in immune response may partially explain why older COVID-19 patients have more severe illness, according to the authors of the study published this month in the journal mBio.

“Elderly people have more severe diseases compared to young people, and we found that the cytotoxic part of immune control is not as efficient to respond to the virus in older people,” said study leader Gennadiy Zelinskyy, a virologist at University Hospital Essen, in Germany.

The lower levels of T cells in COVID-19 patients is among the many unwelcome surprises of the pandemic, he noted in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology.

Once inside the body, most viruses trigger a boost in T cells, including cytotoxic-producing killer T cells that play a critical role in destroying virus-infected cells. If a person’s immune system produces fewer of these T cells, it has greater difficulty combating a viral infection.

The findings suggest that cytotoxic T cells play a key role in control of early infections, but Zelinskyy said it’s too soon to know if these cells can be used to create an immunotherapy against the new coronavirus.

More study is needed to understand the potential risks and benefits of interfering with T cells as a way to control the new coronavirus and other viruses, he concluded.

More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

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