Senior living and care industry leaders speak out against racial inequity in COVID-19 pandemic, society

June 5, 2020

Senior living and care industry representatives are speaking out against racial inequity in response to rising protests across the country following the death of George Floyd and data on COVID-19 cases in long-term care disproportionately affecting minority residents.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, and Helen Crunk, NCAL board chair and Debbie Meade, AHCA board chair, released a joint statement about working together to combat COVID-19 and combat racial inequality in long-term care. 

“Concurrent with George Floyd’s tragic death is evidence of racial inequality in the very virus that we are fighting,” the statement read. “The data is clear that a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths occur among minorities. Most disturbing is that this appears to be true both in the general population and in skilled nursing facilities as well.”

The trio acknowledged the pain of the “deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people, many in our long-term care facilities,” from coronavirus and committed to keep fighting.

“We commit that long-term care facilities will be an oasis of freedom where people of all races, religions and beliefs are able to live and work safely, and without fear of prejudice,” the statement read. “We will work to fight against the factors that have created the profound healthcare disparities that exist in the United States.”

The two organizations, which represent more than 14,000 assisted living communities and  nursing homes that care for approximately 5 million people, thanked the “hundreds of thousands of heroes who work in long-term care facilities and have sacrificed so much during the pandemic.”

“The first half of 2020 has been extremely difficult for our country and created unthinkable challenges, but it will not defeat us and together we will make positive differences,” the statement read. 

James Balda, president and CEO of Argentum, said Floyd’s death brought “systemic issues related to racial injustice, discrimination and bias to the forefront of the national conversation. It has also jump-started meaningful conversations among staff members, residents and families across senior living communities, where the share of black employees is approximately double that of the general U.S. workforce, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living

Numerous studies, he added, have shown that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected members of minority groups and the black community, and this has held true in senior living communities across the country.