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Do Covid Lockdowns Hurt Those Most Vulnerable?

There are now countless mask mandates, business closures, and other restrictive Covid-19 guidelines around the US. There is constant back-and-forth between those who believe science says these things are saving lives and those that believe science says they do not. One thing is certain. Even with masks, lockdown, and zero visitors, nursing home residents are still dying Covid-related deaths at alarming rates.

If the measures taken in the name of protection are working, why are we still seeing so many Covid-positive nursing home residents die? If masks, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, and handwashing work, how is this virus getting into nursing homes at all? Many nursing homes have been and still are considered Covid ‘clusters’. Either the majority of nursing homes are full of negligent medical professionals or some of these measures simply do not work.

As of August 9, 2020, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services data showed 48,215 covid-related deaths among nursing home residents. It also showed 188,954 confirmed and 115,158 suspected cases among nursing home residents. At one point, numerous news reports said that nursing home residents accounted for 40% of Covid deaths in the US.

Since we know complete lockdown with no visitors is not keeping Covid from infecting nursing home residents, why are we still denying them visits with loved ones? Many are in poor health and do not have long to live with or without Covid. It seems torturous to make the rest of their time here on earth as sad and lonely as possible for the sake of saying we are “doing something”.

On August 7, 2020, Louisiana State Representative Beryl Amedee composed a letter to Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. In her letter, she urged him to consider the primary caregiver being recognized as an essential part of a resident’s care team. One reason she gave was that not seeing loved ones can be deadly, as newborns are not the only ones known to die from ‘failure to thrive’. She went on to explain that, “the primary caregiver helps to identify subtle changes, calm anxiety that results from their missing presence, and encourages the loved one to walk, eat, and engage in other activities vital to their well being.”

Nearly everyone involved in making decisions right now has stressed how things change as they get new information. Oddly, the things that need to change do not. The shutdowns, mandates, and strict guidelines are still in place whether they work or not. Nursing home residents are denied visits with loved ones even though it does not seem to be an effective way to avoid a virus.

While we are left to wonder how long this will last, how many businesses will close, and all of the other ways this is affecting us, the most vulnerable among us are sitting in nursing homes unable to see their loved ones. These are people who are often suffering from dementia and other conditions that make virtual visits confusing and anything but a comfort. They should not be treated like prisoners. They should have the opportunity to have their loved ones near during what is already a difficult and confusing time.

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