OHCA Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2020

The Oregon Caregiver SPRING/SUMMER 2020 www.ohca.com 18 DATA & RESEARCH W e are living through the greatest pandemic in modern history. From its emergence in the waning days of 2019 through today, the fallout has left no part of society untouched. Our health care system, the economy, and even our daily lives’ have changed, perhaps forever. Nowhere are the effects of COVID-19 felt more acutely than in long term care. Indeed, long term care providers are on the front line of this crisis. The medically fragile population that long term care providers serve (often the oldest members of society who are living with multiple chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, lung diseases, etc.) are the population at highest risk of complications, hospitalization, and death. We see examples of the virus’s heavy toll on long term care in the news. We also see examples of the heroism and bravery of direct care staff who provide care each and every day as part of the essential workforce. In a time of such great uncertainty, it is understandable to want quick answers to help navigate through the crisis. We are bombarded by a flood of information nearly every hour of every day. At best, much of this information may be worthless. At worst, it can be very dangerous and even deadly. What is clear, however, is that there is much we have learned and there is much we still do not know. As the responses by states, countries, and the entire world are formed and acted on, it is increasingly vital that these responses to this outbreak, as well as our individual responses and actions, must be driven by data and science. What Do We Know? Older adults and people living with underlying health conditions appear to be at higher risk for severe illness, complications, and death from COVID- 19. But the risk is not evenly distributed across all older adults. Rather it is those of most advanced age—individuals age 80 and older that are at highest risk. This age group also happens to be the most likely to need long term care services. The pandemic is disproportionately impacting certain populations such as communities of color—particularly African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans—and individuals of low socioeconomic status. COVID-19 is amplifying long standing disparities within our society that are making the effect of the virus that much more acute. It is impacting both urban and rural communities, although in differing ways. Our efforts to flatten the curve (e.g., reduce new confirmed cases of infec- tion), although painful in their own right for many in terms of reduced social contact and the resulting economic fallout, appear to be successful in stemming the tide of new cases and preventing our health care system from being overwhelmed. This is particularly true in Oregon. New research from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) projects that as many as 75,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,500 hospitalizations have been prevented in Oregon due to these efforts. Yet we must continue to be vigilant as cases could rise again if we attempt to re-open society too fast. Data is More Important Now Than Ever Before By Walt Dawson, D.Phil What Don’t We Know Yet? There are a wide variety of important questions that we simply don’t know the answers to yet, and we may not know them for a very long time. How long will this crisis last? When will a vaccine become widely available? When will life return to “normal”? Why do some people appear to be far more susceptible to COVID-19 than others regardless of underlying health conditions and other demographics? What will be the long term economic impacts of this pandemic and the downstream effects on our health and long term care systems? The level of uncertainty we face can be highly unsettling. It is understandable that we want answers and to better understand what is likely to happen. But where and how we seek out our informa- tion and data is highly important. What Can We Do? 1. Consider the source. We must be careful where we choose to obtain data and information on COVID-19. There is so much data and information circulating on social media and in the news that it is often difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and county public health departments are the authority on guidance and as well as data on the extent of the outbreak. In Oregon, the OHA and the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) are key partners and resources to the public and to long term care providers.