The spread of COVID-19 has exposed cracks in our nation’s pandemic response and rapidly changed our way of life. California leaders are working urgently to strengthen the level of care and support available to the most vulnerable among us, including our largest-in-the-nation population of older adults. 

As many as 400,000 older Californians are receiving care at long-term nursing facilities each year. These patients are our friends, neighbors and family members. They raised us, cared for us and in return we want to do everything we can to safeguard their golden years .

COVID-19 is testing our resolve as a state to keep our heads up and work together to meet this moment. 

The caregivers who work at skilled nursing and living facilities know firsthand the vulnerability and fragility of the patients they serve. Many have made it their life’s work caring for and keeping our loved ones safe and healthy.

Now, in this time of crisis, their mission has become even more critical to mitigate the daily risks facing our loved ones by fighting along the front lines against the spread of COVID-19. Caregivers are a vital lifeline for residents who remain isolated from their loved ones, providing them with health care, comfort and a sense of normalcy under these unprecedented conditions.

The challenge is immense, as our caregivers and the facilities where they work were placed at an immediate disadvantage given the nature of the coronavirus. 

California’s caregivers are doing the best they can to protect the health and safety of those in their care with the resources available. We applaud the leadership of Governor Newsom and his administration as well as the tireless efforts of local jurisdictions to rapidly scale California’s capacity to respond to the crisis. In communities throughout the state, we are seeing selfless acts of heroism and heartwarming moments on a daily basis, but the fact remains that we need to do more to ensure they are equipped with the resources necessary to save lives. 

Most importantly, we must work to expand access to testing to head off this disease. For those who depend on the skilled care and services of professionals at nursing homes, having the ability to identify carriers of the disease, including asymptomatic cases, is critical. 

In addition to increasing testing capacity, we must continue to address the critical need for alternate facilities to house and treat COVID-19 positive patients. Separate facilities will keep the virus contained as recovering patients are transferred from the hospital to skilled nursing facilities. 

We also must work to strengthen their supply of personal protective equipment that helps halt the transmission of the virus between patients and staff. Together, we can step up to support our caregivers and safeguard our older adults.

During this moment and the many long, challenging moments ahead, Californians will rise from the depths of the crisis. To get there more quickly, let’s open our hearts and prioritize the most vulnerable by focusing on solutions and providing the resources to keep them safe and healthy not only in this pandemic, but in preparation for future crises certainly to impact California.