Over one million Americans have died from COVID-19, with a disproportionate number of deaths happening among people of color. This virus has affected everyone, yet the gravity of it weighs more heavily on Native, Black and Latinx communities and our country’s older adults. More than 9 out of 10 people who have died from COVID were older adults, and a third of these older adults were people of color.
In our third year of navigating this pandemic and with cases currently rising with new subvariants, it’s important for people to know the COVID resources available to them for testing, health care treatment, vaccines, and updated guidance for nursing home residents/staff and visitation rights. Below is a summary of these resources put together by our partners at Justice in Aging, plus a reminder on tips to avoid COVID-19 scams.
- COVID.gov is a one-stop shop to locate vaccines, testing, treatment, and high-quality masks. The website is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and interpreters are available in more than 150 languages at 1-800-232-0233.
- The Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) (1-888-677-1199) provides support to disabled individuals who need assistance with accessing and using COVID-19 testing, including help with self-administered at-home testing, help identifying other in-home testing options, and assistance with transportation or companion support to visit a community-based testing site.
- The Administration for Community Living has additional resources and information on COVID-19 for aging and disability networks.
- The CDC recommends that all adults age 50 and older should receive a second booster dose using an mRNA vaccine at least 4 months after their first booster.
- People age 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should also receive a second booster dose using an mRNA vaccine at least 4 months after their first booster.
- People ages 18-49 years who received the J&J/Janssen vaccine as both their primary series dose and booster dose may receive a second booster dose using an mRNA vaccine at least 4 months after the Janssen booster dose.
- Everyone age 5 and older should receive 1 booster dose 5 months after their primary series.
Testing and Treatment
- All households can now order a third set of 8 free at-home rapid tests through COVIDtests.gov. Households that did not previously order tests can get two sets of 8 (16 tests total). The test kits are delivered through the mail by the US Postal Service and can be ordered online or at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
- Medicare now covers up to 8 at-home rapid tests per month per enrollee. People with Medicare Part B can get the over-the-counter tests at any participating pharmacy or health care provider with no cost sharing for the remainder of the public health emergency. Coverage of at-home tests with no cost sharing is also available to people with private health insurance and with Medicaid.
- The “test to treat” program helps people who test positive for COVID-19 to receive antiviral pills immediately for free at participating local pharmacies, community health centers, and long-term care facilities. Starting antiviral treatment quickly is particularly important for older adults and others who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Test-to-treat locator tool.
- The current Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) nursing facility visitation guidance emphasizes a resident’s right to receive visitors and rejects the lockdown strategy used in 2020 and 2021, acknowleding the “physical and psychosocial decline” no-visitor policies caused.
- Data on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots administered to nursing home residents and staff is posted on the Medicare.gov Care Compare website.
Tips to Avoid COVID Scams and Other Medicare Fraud
- Never give your Medicare number to anyone offering a free, unsolicited COVID test or treatments
- Don’t respond to offers of a “free”, or “special virus kit” (except those offered by the federal government through COVID.gov)
- Watch out for scammers posing as contract tracers who ask for your Medicare number, Social Security Number or bank information
- Never share your Medicare number with callers offering free back or knee braces
- Don’t sign up for hospice to get “free” supplies, COVID tests or help at home if you are not terminally ill
- Always check your Medicare Summary Notices (MSNs) to look for errors and claims for items and/or services you never received