Social workers have a key role to play in the war against coronavirus

As the number of Americans critically ill from coronavirus mounts, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: it’s the oldest among us who are most vulnerable.

Among the most recent deaths reported in the United States were a 69-year-old man, a man and a woman, each in their 70s, and another woman in her 80s. Their deaths reflect a wider story that those tracking the lethality of this new disease are just beginning to understand – in the fight against COVID-19, the younger fare far better than the old.

Early research by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that the fatality rate of this new disease differs widely by age. For those confirmed cases between the ages of 10 and 39, only 0.2 percent die. For those 80 or older, the fatality rate is 14.8 percent.

So while health care workers in hospitals and clinics may be the first line of defense for those feeling ill, it is the social workers and caregivers in our nursing homes and long-term care centers who are truly on the front lines of this outbreak. And yet, our national response has all but ignored this critical community.

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Originally published on Fox News Opinion (March 10, 2020)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.