Our communities have dramatically changed since the COVID-19 pandemic started two years ago. Since March 2020, more than 1 in 100 people over age 65 in the U.S. has died. These older adults are our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, neighbors, and friends. They are part of our communities. To move forward while protecting our communities, our leaders and all of us must continue to do everything we can to prevent more illnesses and deaths.
We now have vaccines and other powerful tools to fight the pandemic. Yet, the virus continues to cause serious illness and disability, and remains deadly in communities across America, especially for seniors, people with disabilities, people with chronic health conditions, people living in congregate settings, and people of color.
The disparities are glaring and growing. Despite the highest rates of vaccination and boosters of any age group, people over age 75 are 140 times more likely to die than people in their 20s. Over 200,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities have died, accounting for nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. As with so many aspects of this pandemic, the burden of those deaths is disproportionately among people of color. Black, Latino/a, and Native elders have died at higher rates than white older adults. And people of color have also died at younger ages, dramatically decreasing overall life expectancy and erasing 14 years of progress in narrowing the life-expectancy gap between Black and white Americans.
As the White House stated, experts have warned that there could be an increase in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the next couple of months following a trend in rising cases abroad. To avoid another surge with serious illness and death, we need a renewed commitment to use all the tools available to fight new variants.
Justice in Aging calls on Congress, the Biden Administration and leaders at every level of government to commit the necessary funding and resources to protect those most at-risk and all of us from COVID-19’s serious ongoing harms. This includes ensuring all of the tools—including vaccines, treatment, testing, and high-quality masks—are both available and accessible to everyone. It also includes investing in Medicare and Medicaid, expanding access to at-home care and affordable housing, and strengthening Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and programs that support the economic well-being and safety of older adults and their families. This funding and resources, and the policies and programs they support, must center the needs of older adults of color and other populations most at risk, including long-term care residents, people with disabilities, people with chronic health conditions, the direct care workforce and family caregivers, people with limited English proficiency (LEP), members of the LGBTQ+ community, the uninsured, people experiencing homelessness, and people who are detained or incarcerated.
Justice in Aging will continue to prioritize COVID-19 in our advocacy efforts, working with partners to ensure necessary and effective policies are in place to prevent serious illness and death and protect the lives of older adults in our families and communities.