Trump: Protecting America’s Seniors
President Trump declared the month of May to be Older Americans Month.
Trump was Monday’s KVML “Newsmaker of the Day”. Here are his words:
“This afternoon, I’ll sign a proclamation declaring the month of May to be Older Americans Month. I don’t know if I’m in that category. I have a feeling I am. But I feel good. And our country is making a lot of progress, Alex — I want to tell you that. Making a lot of progress.
As we honor the incredible contributions of our nation’s seniors, we are here today to discuss the unprecedented steps we that we’re taking to protect them from the virus. I’ll also announce vital new actions to safeguard our nursing homes and most vulnerable citizens as we gradually and safely reopen our country. And it’s very exciting to see what’s happening.
We’re joined today by Secretary Alex Azar. Thank you. Secretary Robert Wilkie. Robert, thank you very much. Administrator Seema Verma. Thank you. Great job. FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Joseph Lengyel. Thanks also to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, my friend. Thank you very much, Bill. Great job you’re doing. It’s great being with you, too. And many outstanding advocates for America’s seniors who are here with us today. Thank you all very much.
As we tragically have seen, the virus poses the greatest risk to older Americans. Together, as one nation, we mourn for every precious life that has been lost. And there have been many. There have been many. We’re so saddened by it.
Through aggressive actions and the devotion of our doctors and nurses, however, we have held our fatality rate far below hard-hit other countries such as Spain and Italy and United Kingdom and Sweden. We’re way below other countries.
We’re deploying every tool, resource, and power at our disposal to protect our seniors and Americans of every age and background.
Early on, we implemented lifesaving travel restrictions and directed billions of dollars toward the development of therapies and vaccines. And that’s moving along rapidly. We’ve moved at a speed that people are absolutely stunned to see. We accelerated treatments including remdesivir, which is reportedly showing encouraging preliminary results. That was the very big story yesterday. It was announced by Gilead.
In early March, my administration advised all nursing homes to suspend all medically unnecessary visits to help slow the spread and protect our seniors, and especially in our nursing homes. They are — they’re having a hard time in those nursing homes. We took action to step up enforcement of infectious disease standards at nursing homes all across America.
We also acted swiftly to secure our veterans’ healthcare facilities and deployed hundreds of VA staff to help out in nursing homes nationwide. And we’re being helped very greatly by the passage of all the things that we got passed, Robert, especially Choice, so that people can go and see their doctor when they have to and especially our seniors.
We provided nearly one billion dollars in grants to support home-delivered meals, in-home care, and other services that make it impossible [possible] for older people to just do what they want to do. We’re helping older people with disabilities, and we’re helping them to live independently.
We dramatically expanded access to telehealth — a very big deal — for Medicare beneficiaries. The number of Medicare patients using telehealth has increased from roughly 11,000 a week to more than 650,000 people a week. So that’s from 11,000 a week to 650,000. That’s almost an impossible number to believe, right? But it’s really — it’s really something. They get used to it, and a lot of that is going to be staying with us long after this horrible scourge is gone.
Medicare is also paying for labs to provide seniors with at-home testing, when appropriate, at zero cost to patients.
We’ve ensured a ventilator for every patient who needs one. Nobody who’s needed a ventilator has been without a ventilator. It’s an incredible achievement. And we now have thousands and thousands of ventilators. And other countries are asking us for help, and we’re helping other countries: allies and some that aren’t necessarily allies, but they’re in big trouble. And we’re helping other countries now with ventilators.
Same thing with masks. We have millions and millions of masks. That was something, four weeks ago, was difficult, and now we have millions of masks coming in and already here.
The federal government is also funding over 35,000 members of the National Guard to help states deliver critical supplies to nursing homes and to assist with disinfecting and testing.
I’d like to ask General Lengyel to please come up and say a few words about the work of the National Guard. It’s been really fantastic. Thank you.
GENERAL LENGYEL: Thank you, Mr. President. And good afternoon, everyone. I’m very proud of the National Guard and all they are doing to help keep our nation safe here at home and abroad.
Today, over 83,000 men and women in the National Guard are engaged at home and abroad, and 45,000 of those are engaged directly in the COVID-19 response. From running hundreds of testing sites around the country, to screening passengers at airports, to helping manufacturer PPE, to a myriad of other tasks, the National Guard is there.
We know this virus doesn’t treat everyone equally, and our senior citizens are at increased risk. In many states, governors have directed National Guard members to help sanitize long-term care facilities, nursing homes, giving older citizens and families and caregivers peace of mind that their environments are safe.
The Georgia National Guard, for instance, has done this — has sanitized over 700 nursing homes, and this has been replicated at many places around the nation and continues to grow.
Additionally, food banks and homeless shelters — in normal times, these are often staffed by our volunteers. Many of them are elderly senior citizens here in America. Now, volunteering puts those great Americans at increased risk. So the National Guard is helping these Americans stay clear of this risk. In doing that, the National Guard is staffing many food banks across the nation where they need — the need for food assistance is increasing across the nation as this virus continues to persist.
The National Guard is a big part of the United States Army and our United States Air Force, and we’re proud of that. But this role that we play here at home, in the homeland, under the command of the governors in our states, is distinctly and uniquely National Guard business, and we’re very proud of that.
So, Mr. President, thank you. Thank you for the support that you give our military and the National Guard and all the men and women who serve. They are proud to serve our nation.
Thank you for letting me talk about the Guard today. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, General. That’s great. Four stars. That’s a lot of stars. Very impressive.
GENERAL LENGYEL: (Inaudible.) (Off-mic.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s right. But that’s okay. That’s very impressive. You deserve them.
I do want to say, you mentioned the word “governor,” and we’ve had a lot of great success and relationship with the governors. We’ve dealt with our governors very, very well. We have really, I think, gotten to understand each other, know each other. In many cases, really like each other. And that’s worked out very well.
We had Phil Murphy here from New Jersey — the Governor of New Jersey, today. Wonderful man. A lot of progress is being made there. And we had John Bel Edwards yesterday from Louisiana, and Ron DeSantis the day before, from Florida, with just tremendous progress. Three very exceptional men, and they’re doing a really good job, as you know. As you know. So — and we have others coming in. They’ll come in one or two a day. And we’re seeing them, and whatever we can help them with, we help them with, and we help them with very — very quickly, General. Right? So it’s been very good.
My administration is doing everything possible to support the state-led management of nursing homes. And here today is a governor who I happen to like a lot, and he’s done a fantastic job in a fantastic state — a state that I happen to like a lot; it’s called Tennessee. For some reason, they like me. I haven’t figured that out, but they like me in Tennessee. So that’s good, Bill.
Please come up. Governor Bill Lee, please.
GOVERNOR LEE: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
GOVERNOR LEE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And thank you to your team, many in this room that we have worked with. You are guiding America through a tremendous crisis, and you’re doing it incredibly well, and America is very grateful for that.
And we are grateful in Tennessee for the partnership — the partnership between the federal government and states like ours. As we work to make our contribution to fighting COVID-19, we can do so because of the work that you’re doing and the way that you’re supporting what we’re doing.
So, Mr. President, you’ve asked states to commit to a goal of testing 2 percent of their population. In April, 2 percent of Tennesseans were tested. And we have tested over 175,000 to date. But as we look to May, to build upon that, we’re actually strengthening our commitment, particularly to the elderly, the most vulnerable of our citizens, especially those in nursing homes.
You know, there’s a scripture that describes being hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. And that’s where we are in Tennessee. I think that’s where we are in the nation. But the elderly are most hard pressed in this setting, and especially those in long-term care facilities, and they need our help.
So, in Tennessee, we’re committed to testing every resident and every staff in every one of our 700 long-term care facilities. It’ll be a great undertaking, but it honors the value of these lives in those facilities — lives that have protected our country in the hardest of times, the greatest generation, and those that have a loving legacy of being our neighbors and our friends and are grandparents.
And it’s time for us to protect them. And we should do so by pursuing social distancing, for example, in every way that we can with them. And the distance is sometimes a great goal if I haven’t hugged my own elderly mom in eight weeks. But we’re doing right by these citizens, and you’re doing right by committing to these citizens to make certain that they — that we do our personal part to make sure that they’re safe and while valuing our freedoms all at the same time.
So while I think as a country we may be hard pressed on many sides, we are not crushed. And we are grateful for your leadership and for this team’s leadership, and particularly your commitment to the most vulnerable in our nation. And together, we will get through this.
Thank you very much, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Bill. Thank you very much, Bill. Great governor, by the way.
As we take steps to safely reopen our country, we must remain especially vigilant in sheltering the most vulnerable older Americans. To that end, today I have several important announcements.
First, in addition to all of the supplies we’ve already distributed, FEMA will send supplemental shipments. And I have to tell you, Pete, what a job you’ve done. Everybody was — at the last call with the governors, so many of the governors said, “I want to thank him for calling…” — he called on Easter morning and he’s calling them all the time. And you call them on Sundays and you call them every time — all the time. And I’ll tell you, they really appreciated it. They really do. You’ve done a fantastic job. Pete Gaynor, FEMA.
But FEMA will send supplemental shipments of personal protective equipment to all 15,400 Medicaid- and Medicare-certified nursing homes in America. Right, Pete?
Second, CMS is providing states with $81 million from the CARES Act to increase their inspections of nursing homes at this very critical time. We have to do that. We have to do that. It’s a — that’s a spot. That’s a spot that we have to take care of. I guess you could call it a little bit of a weak spot, because things are happening at the nursing homes, and we’re not — we’re not happy about that. We don’t want it to happen. So we’re checking that out very carefully and very methodically.
Third, this week, we’ll be finalizing a new rule requiring information about coronavirus cases in nursing homes to be reported directly to CDC and testing data to be posted online so everyone gets to see it. This rule also requires nursing homes to report cases to residents and their family members.
And finally, to ensure that our nursing homes are prepared for any future outbreaks, we’re announcing the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. This commission will be composed of leading industry experts, doctors, and scientists, resident and patient advocates, family members, infection and prevention control specialists, and state and local authorities. It’s a big deal.
The Commission will convene in May and issue recommendations for further steps we can take to protect our nation’s seniors. My administration will never waver in its relentless commitment to America’s seniors. We owe them a sacred and unbreakable obligation, and we will fulfill that obligation with every resource and power that we have. We are working very hard with our seniors, and we’re working very hard with our nursing homes. And great progress is being made and will be made. That, I can promise you.
That’s also why we are strongly protecting Medicare and Social Security. We will protect your Social Security. We will protect your Medicare. We will protect you, as American citizens. And that goes even beyond seniors. We’re protecting this country.
Our cherished seniors enrich every aspect of our national life. These great citizens have dedicated their entire lives to our families and our communities and our countries. Our country could not be anything near where it is without our incredible seniors. We’ll show them the same love and loyalty they’ve shown us and they’ve shown our nation every day of their lives. No effort will be spared to give America’s seniors the care and support and devotion and love they have earned and that they deserve.
In a few moments, I’ll sign a proclamation design- — designing a very special — we’ve designed a very special plan. And it’s going to designate Older American Month. So this is Older Americans Month.
But first, I’d like to ask Secretary Azar, Secretary Wilkie, Administrator Verma, Administrator Gaynor to share what their department and agencies are doing to help our nation’s seniors.
So, just come on up, and maybe you could say a few words. And you’ve made a lot of progress.
Alex, why don’t you start? Thank you.
SECRETARY AZAR: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership during this pandemic and for the work you’ve done throughout your administration to protect older Americans. I’d also like to thank the older Americans and advocates we have here today, including those working hard at the state and local level.
As the President described during this pandemic, we have taken every possible effort to keep older Americans healthy and safe. In addition to our public health and healthcare efforts, President Trump has secured historic investments in programs that support older Americans and help them live independently.
Over the past month, HHS has dispersed more than $1 billion in grants to aging and disability networks, which are state and local agencies, like a Council on Aging that provides services for seniors living in the community.
This is more than a 40 percent increase in the annual support that we provide to these critical organizations. Services that we support, they include delivered meals, like my grandmother used to get from Meals on Wheels; help with trips to the grocery store or the doctor; and assistance with chores in the home. Back in March, we put out $250 million in grants specifically for meals, including through Meals on Wheels.
We’ve been pleased to see communities get creative with these funds. Some states are ensuring not only that the meals are getting to seniors, but that the meals are coming from local restaurants whose businesses are struggling.
It’s not just about meals and services; we also recognize that older Americans may be facing mental health challenges and feeling isolated. Florida’s aging network, for instance, is combatting social isolation by providing electronic tablets to nursing home residents to help them communicate with loved ones. We’re also working to protect the rights of older Americans in accessing healthcare.
Our Office for Civil Rights has been taking action to ensure that states and healthcare providers do not discriminate on the basis of disability or age and the allocation of medical care. We’ve already had two states remove such discriminatory policies from their triaging guidelines as a result of our Office for Civil Rights work.
Finally, as the President and others mentioned, we’ve worked closely with states to ensure that they can test especially vulnerable populations, like those living in nursing homes and those who care for them. This work to protect seniors and empower them will continue throughout the pandemic as we reopen our country and keep America’s seniors as healthy and as independent as possible.
Thank you all for what you do in this effort. Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Incredible job. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Thank you, Robert.
SECRETARY WILKIE: Mr. President, thank you. And thank you for everything you have done to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of the nation’s nine and a half million veterans.
Seventy-five years ago, the men of the 28th Marine Regiment raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. No event better evoked the sacrifices and the triumphs of the 15 million Americans who put on the uniform during World War Two.
A few years after Iwo Jima, the soldiers of the United States Eighth Army defended the Pusan Perimeter, and Marines fought through and out of the Chosin Reservoir. Veterans of those terrible times are still with us today.
Early on in this crisis, President Trump gave me very explicit orders to do everything possible to protect the lives of those precious Americans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has 134 nursing homes, but more than half of the residents in those nursing homes fought in wars with battles with names like Guadalcanal, and the Bulge, and Inchon. Of the 78,000 residents in our nursing homes, we have tested all of them for the coronavirus. We have tested all of our staff in those nursing homes. Our infection rate is low. Many of our homes have few, if any, positive cases.
But still, as the President noted, we had to make a very tough decision early on. After all of these veterans had gone through so much on the battlefield, we had to tell them at this stage in their lives that we were depriving them of the sustenance of their families and friends because we had to protect their lives.
Because of the President’s directions to me, we have been able to contain the virus in our nursing homes. And now we are taking those lessons that we’ve learned from VA across the country to protect patients across America.
We are the federal experts in gerontology. We are helping 38 states and territories handle the surge of patients dealing with this virus with our partners and our great partners at FEMA, and even by direct action through the governors. Aiding America’s elderly is central to all of our efforts.
We deployed VA staff, as the President noted, to veterans nursing homes owned and operated by the individual states. Early on, Governors Charlie Baker and Phil Murphy moved to protect their veterans, and they asked us for help. In addition to Massachusetts and New Jersey, we are helping in Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee.
In California and Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas, we have taken in non-veteran nursing home patients and state veterans nursing home patients into our VA facilities. We are helping elderly Americans wherever we find them.
Mr. President, you should be very proud of this VA that you have helped build. Thousands of VA employees have leapt into harm’s way — VA leaders like Joan McInerney and Martina Parauda in your hometown; Ryan Lilly in Boston; Rima Nelson in Detroit; Vicki Brahm in Illinois and Wisconsin; Fernando Rivera and Skye McDougall in New Orleans; and Miguel LaPuz in Florida.
All of them have put service before self to protect the most vulnerable and deserving. These are the folks who made America strong and free.
Thank you very much, sir. Thank you, sir.
ADMINISTRATOR VERMA: Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for your commitment to the nation’s seniors and to the Medicare program. You’ve been very clear with me since day one that you wanted to protect and strengthen the Medicare program. And under your leadership, our Medicare Advantage program is seeing premiums at a 13-year low, and in our Part D program, it’s a 7-year low.
But today I want to focus on nursing homes. In the scheme of life decisions, placing a loved one in a nursing home has to be one of the most difficult decisions. And when you make that decision, you want to know that you can stay connected with your loved one and that they’re going to be safe and have the best quality of life. And that’s why the decision to restrict visitation in nursing homes was a heartbreaking decision. And our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the patients during this very uncertain time.
But the tragic reality is that the coronavirus seemed almost tailor-made to put major pressure on nursing homes, and countries across the world have struggled with their nursing home populations. But the President’s early action around nursing homes has saved countless lives.
And even before the coronavirus, we have been working on a strategy to improve quality in nursing homes. The strategy focused on quality, oversight, enforcement, and transparency for patients and their families so they understand exactly what’s going on in nursing homes, about the conditions there, and reducing regulatory burdens so that nursing home providers can focus on providing care to their patients instead of paperwork.
We’ve overhauled the entire survey system and implemented a common tool across the entire nation to ensure that our inspectors were being consistent, objective. And that’s actually resulted in an increase in the number of fines. And we’ve updated our websites so that patients and their families have the latest information on the quality in a nursing home and making it very clear when nursing homes have had significant cases of abuse and neglect.
And those improvements that we’ve made made it possible, when the coronavirus hit, for us to take very rapid action on several fronts. We launched an unprecedented transparency effort, and that requires nursing homes to inform patients and families when there’s an outbreak in the nursing home, and to also report that information directly to the CDC. And that’s going to be important to our efforts around surveillance going forward as we reopen the country.
And also, we increased reimbursement for labs so that they could do more testing in the nursing home. And that’s going to be very critical, as I said before, to our monitoring and surveillance efforts.
Also, starting in February, we issued a series of nine guidance documents specific to coronavirus in controlling infections in nursing homes.
And just for some perspective, normally these types of guidance documents can take months, sometimes years. But the CMS team worked days and nights and weekends to make sure we got this information in the hands of our nursing homes to do everything that we could to protect our vulnerable seniors. And we also host weekly calls with the nursing homes to help them implement our guidance.
But federal action is just one part of the piece. States ultimately license nursing homes. And that’s why we’ve been working with states to investigate outbreaks that have been going on and inspect nursing homes. And our guidance has called upon state and local leaders to support nursing homes in their efforts to control the coronavirus outbreaks.
And I commend Governor Lee and governors across the nation that have implemented our guidance, whether it’s cleaning their facilities, testing, and creating new COVID facilities. And that helps isolate patients that are sick and keeps other patients safe. And this work has been critical to keeping nursing home residents safe.
And I’m pleased to announce that we are putting out new state grants to support state and local efforts to nursing homes. The President has been an advocate of this. He has asked for increased funding to inspect nursing homes every year in his budget. But this is the first time that Congress has provided this funding, and the money couldn’t come at a more critical time when it’ll be important to work with our state partners to ensure safety in our nursing homes.
But the President has directed us to do more. And so, as part of our Opening Up America efforts, we are going to oversee the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. And the commission will comprehensively assess the response, it will identify best practices, and also provide recommendations for how we go forward to protect our nursing home residents and make sure we are providing the best quality of life.
And, in closing, I want to speak directly to our nursing home residents, their caretakers, and their families: Your pain is our pain, and we are doing everything we can to support you. And to the healthcare workers on the frontlines providing care and comfort to our nursing home residents: We thank you.
And thank you, Mr. President, for your consistent leadership and unwavering support for our elderly citizens. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Seema, do you want to tell them that you’re going to have some big news very soon on insulin?
ADMINISTRATOR VERMA: That’s right.
THE PRESIDENT: This is a big — this is a big deal.
ADMINISTRATOR VERMA: We’re doing everything we can to lower the price of insulin for our seniors, and we’ll have some great announcements coming up very soon to lower the price.
THE PRESIDENT: Some big news. Great news. Good. Thank you.
ADMINISTRATOR VERMA: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Pete.
ADMINISTRATOR GAYNOR: Thank you, Mr. President, Administrator Verma, and members of the coronavirus task force. Let me focus on the logistics in our effort to deliver personal protective equipment care packages to those citizens at highest risk, in greatest need: those living in our nursing homes across the country.
Thanks to the leadership of the President and the tremendous support of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, FEMA will deliver care packages containing four items of PPE to more than 15,000 Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes nationwide, to include the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Guam.
Given the lack of availability of PPE necessary for healthcare workers providing support for nursing homes, we will provide a package or a kit containing a seven-day supply of eye protection, masks, gowns, and gloves to these 15 [thousand]-plus nursing homes. Each kit is individualized for each nursing home based on the level of staffing and the seven days of our supply calculation.
Over the course of the next 60 days, we’ll be providing each of the nursing homes with two separate shipments of 7 days of supplies, totaling 14 days of supplies by the beginning of July. The first shipment of supplies begins next week. These initial shipments will focus on metropolitan area sites such as New York City, Northern New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The second shipment of supplies begins in early June. The goal is to have all supplies delivered no later than July 4th.
Assisting us in this endeavor is Federal Resources, a small business based out of Stevensville, Maryland, who specializes in chem-bio equipment support with focusing on kitting solutions for the Department of Defense. They will help us distribute the following PPE items: 608,000 pieces of eye protection, 6.9 million surgical masks, 6.4 million gowns, 31.4 million pairs of gloves.
And finally, I would again like to extend my gratitude to the President for his leadership on this project, as well as to thank my fellow members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and their continued partnership. Together, we have turned a critical demand for PPE for our seniors and frontline healthcare workers into reality.
Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Pete. Great job. Thank you very much.
Okay, thank you all very much. I think we’ll sign. If you’d like to come up, come on up. Come on up.
(The proclamation is signed.)
Thank you very much.”
The “Newsmaker of the Day” is heard every weekday morning at 6:45, 7:45 and 8:45 on AM 1450 and FM 102.7 KVML.