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California Ombudsman, Nicole Howell, Testifies on the Impact of the Coronavirus Crisis on Nursing Homes

June 26, 2020

Several expert witnesses called for the federal government to address inadequate staffing at nursing homes and long-term care facilities in wake of the coronavirus pandemic and its fatal toll on residents and workers. “Poor staffing in long-term care facilities was the gasoline to COVID-19’s match,” testified Nicole Howell, Executive Director for Ombudsman Services of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

Direct care workers on average earn only $1-2 more per hour over minimum wage, thereby forcing them to work 60 to 80 hours per week at multiple locations in order to generate a livable income. Consequently, caregivers may transmit COVID-19 from one facility to another. They are also frightened given the lack of COVID-19 testing and PPE, as being a nursing home caregiver has now become the most dangerous job in America.

David Grabowski, Ph.D., Harvard professor and healthcare policy expert, called on the federal government to develop a consistent testing and PPE policy nationwide and provide resources for facilities to meet those standards. He notes that the federal government needs to take ownership of this issue in order to contain COVID-19 and reopen nursing homes.

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