Nationwide, more than 1.6 million older adults live in low-income housing subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development — most in apartment buildings with shared common spaces, elevators, staircases, mailrooms, hallways and laundry rooms where the coronavirus might lurk.
Residents are not wearing masks or gloves to guard against the coronavirus. They’re touching everything on the elevator, in the laundry room. And anybody and everybody’s relatives and friends are coming in and out with no scrutiny. No one is checking on residents to see if they need help, Brooks said. And no one seems to know whether residents have tested positive for COVID-19 or died, though ambulances have screeched up to the entrance several times.This building is not safe. With all the things happening in the U.S., this is what ‘seniors lives don’t matter’ looks like.
Nationally there is no data on COVID-19’s spread in low-income housing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not collecting it or requiring states to do so. The same is true of HUD and state and local housing agencies: This is “independent living,” and operators are not expected to monitor the health of residents.
"Without testing, there’s no way of knowing how many people have the virus,” said Michael Kane, executive director of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants. “Our concern is that there could be a transmission danger similar to what’s going on in nursing homes or assisted living.” "People are dying all over in these buildings, and we don’t know what they’re dying from said Geraldine Collins, president of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants."
“Without testing, there’s no way of knowing how many people have the virus,” said Michael Kane, executive director of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants. “Our concern is that there could be a transmission danger similar to what’s going on in nursing homes or assisted living.”
Most of these seniors have endured a life of disadvantage, have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and lack financial reserves to draw upon. Yet in the midst of the pandemic, this population — the age group deemed most at risk of becoming critically ill and dying — has largely been overlooked.