No visitors for seven months: families in United States argue for access despite lack of rapid COVID testing

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Aged care homes in the US are facing a lose-lose situation.

Seven months into the global coronavirus pandemic, The Guardian is reporting that there is a growing grassroots movement across the States for the many families still being denied access to relatives in aged care homes.

“Many of these facilities’ families haven’t been in there in months, and they can see their family members dwindling away, and they’re losing days they can never get back,” said Dave Bruns, a spokesperson for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) of Florida.

However, with the US still seeing 50,000-plus new cases every day, homes that do open up to visitors will be at increased risk of infection.

“Just the isolation caused by the shutdown order is literally killing people,” he said.

“If you don’t reopen them, that’s definitely going to kill some people, and if you do open them it’s definitely going to kill some people.”

Advocates say lockdowns have already allowed asymptomatic staff members with COVID into homes and they are prepared to maintain social distancing and other infection control measures.

Experts say the key to re-opening homes is rapid testing kits – but these have only just begun to be rolled out by the Trump administration, with only 7,600 or around half of the country’s home receiving kits so far.

When these run out, facilities must also purchase new kits – at a cost of US$32 (AUD$44) – at their own cost.

So, do facilities open up knowing of the risk – or keep their doors closed?

A tough question – with no easy answers.

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