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Matsui, Task Force on Aging and Families Lead Effort to Appoint Aging Specialist to Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Co-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families (TFAF), led a letter to Drs. David Kessler, Vivek Murthy, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, Co-Chairs of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, requesting that a geriatrician or expert in aging services be appointed to the board to specifically address the impact of COVID-19 on Older Americans.

Recently, the transition began appointing a leading team of public health experts to the board that will advise President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the incoming Administration’s COVID-19 staff on managing the pandemic. The diverse range of highly qualified physicians, scientists, and public health experts on the panel are experienced and trusted leaders who are well-equipped to take on the important task of leading our country’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

However, recognizing that older adults continue to bear the disproportionate burden of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, Congresswoman Matsui is urging the Biden-Harris Transition to prioritize at-risk older adults, their families, and their caregivers in a robust federal response. Appointing a geriatrician or expert in aging services to the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board will give voice to the unique needs of Older Americans as we take critical next steps to get the virus under control, and safely and equitably distribute tests, therapies and vaccines.

Congresswoman Matsui led the letter alongside fellow TFAF Co-Chairs Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Conor Lamb (D-PA) as well as Vice Chairs Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).

“I am very grateful that Congresswoman Matsui and the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families are asking the Biden-Harris Transition to add a geriatrician to the COVID-19 Advisory Board,” said Darrick Lam, President and CEO, ACC Senior Services. “Our nation needs someone who has the experience to work with older adults whose risks for COVID-19 increases. As indicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.”

Full text of the letter is available below and here.

Dear Drs. Kessler, Murthy, and Nunez-Smith:

We are grateful for the incoming Administration’s commitment to ensuring a robust federal response to the pandemic by establishing the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. We commend the Biden-Harris Transition for appointing, to date, a diverse range of highly qualified physicians, scientists, and public health experts to the panel. These trusted leaders are well-qualified to take on the important task of addressing the many public health and economic challenges the pandemic continues to impose on communities around our country.

Americans over the age of 65 account for more than 80% of COVID-19 deaths . The risk of severe illness, hospitalization or dying when diagnosed with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at the highest risk. With this in mind, the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Aging & Families respectfully requests that a geriatrician or expert in aging services be appointed to the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board to specifically address the disproportionate impact and unique challenges that COVID-19 has on Older Americans.

As a Task Force, we work to prioritize and address the unique needs of Older Americans and protect the fundamental rights that every older adult and their families deserve. In the context of the pandemic, we are committed to elevating the needs of at-risk older adults and their caregivers, including those living and working in congregate care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living, hospice, and other home- and community-based settings. Looking ahead, we recognize that quarantine and isolation will continue to impact the medical, nutritional, and mental health needs of many older adults and that these challenges will only be exacerbated by a winter surge in COVID-19 cases. Further, greater focus should be given to the safety, effectiveness and prioritization of vaccines and treatments for older adults. The addition of a geriatrician or expert in aging services will be critical to ensuring that the panel understands and is equipped to address these and other unique needs of older Americans when advising the President-elect on mitigating COVID-19.

Support for Older Americans, their families and their caregivers is an essential component of a robust federal response to the pandemic, and we implore you to consider including the important perspective of a geriatrician or expert in aging services on the COVID-19 Advisory Board.

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