Use testing to allow families access to long-term care facilities
Among the many tragedies of COVID-19 across the First State is the toll the disease takes on people in long-term care facilities.
In Sussex County, nearly two-thirds of all deaths have occurred in these facilities, whose residents are mostly older, many with underlying health conditions – in other words, the people most at risk for COVID-19.
As of May 21, the Division of Public Health reports more than 4,000 people have tested positive in Sussex County; 119 people have died. Nearly two-thirds of these Sussex County deaths – 75 people – were living in just four long-term care facilities: Genesis in Milford, Harrison House in Georgetown, Harbor Healthcare in Lewes and Atlantic Shores in Millsboro.
State officials, aware of the danger to these residents, ordered isolation measures in April. In early May, they announced state testing was available for all staff and patients.
But while many of the governor’s orders have the force of law, the lifesaving measure of testing staff and patients in long-term care facilities has until now been voluntary – a suggestion the facilities, sadly, were slow to adopt.
Meanwhile, officials early on restricted visitors to these same facilities. For months, families – the first line of defense for residents – have had little contact with their loved ones other than virtual visits.
On Monday, June 1, weekly testing for all long-term care staff and patients will finally become mandatory.
That step is nearly a month overdue.
Delaware recently received a $67 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which officials say will be used to expand testing and build a contact tracing program – especially among vulnerable populations.
Testing and tracing are keys, the governor said, to reopening the economy.
We are all ready for the economy to reopen. Still, to reduce deaths, Delaware should spend some grant money on testing and protective equipment for family members so they can safely visit their loved ones and ensure they are getting the care they deserve.