Protecting Our Seniors During a Pandemic
Over the last few days, South Dakota has confirmed several cases of COVID-19, known as the coronavirus. While I am confident that our state and local governments will work together to protect the health of our communities, it is important that we all take extra precautions to support vulnerable populations during this time.
The information we have on the coronavirus thus far shows that older adults and people with serious medical conditions are at higher risk of getting seriously sick from this illness. If you or a loved one is at higher risk, please note the following CDC recommendations:
- Take precautions to limit close contact with others, especially with those who are sick.
- Avoid large crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential air travel.
- Reasonably stock up on supplies such as necessary medications, medical supplies, and groceries.
- Stay home as much as possible.
While these practices will work best to halt the spread of the coronavirus and protect high-risk individuals, Congress has been working overtime to provide extra protections for older Americans. On Wednesday, Congress passed the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020, which reauthorizes and expands several critical social and nutrition services for older Americans. I am an original cosponsor of the bill and am encouraged to see it heading to the president’s desk at a time when seniors need support the most.
This bill can help combat the coronavirus in a few ways. First, it directs states to minimize burdensome administrative processes to more easily transfer funds between nutrition programs for home-delivered meals. This will help maximize the delivery of meals and minimize groups of elderly folks from coming into contact with COVID-19 at places like the grocery store. This bill also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to assist states with delivering senior aid to rural areas and local communities, so all seniors have access to these services.
Along with this funding, last week we passed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law. The bill provided $7.8 billion in additional funding for federal, state, and local government responses to the coronavirus, which included funding for additional diagnostic tests, treatments, and vaccine development.
While outbreaks like these can certainly be overwhelming, it is important to not panic, and rather take the necessary precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and I will be sure to continue to update South Dakotans with new information as it becomes available.