On Feb. 16, AARP SC State Director, Teresa Arnold, gave the following statement to the South Carolina House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee as they considered testimony related to S. 516.
“I want to thank the SC Legislature, the House Ways and Means Committee and, in particular, this subcommittee for your incredible efforts to protect South Carolinians and focus on what will move us back to prosperity. Our 600,000 members in South Carolina are looking to you for the leadership to guide us out of this pandemic.
I and the members I represent are grateful to Governor McMaster for following the evidence and working so hard to protect folks 65 and older in our state by prioritizing them for the vaccine.
I’d like to make three points:
- Show evidence of who is most at risk
- Double down on health disparities and COVID risk
- Show how AARP wants to be part of the solution
One: 81 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in this state are people 65 and older. Add the rest of our membership, 50 and up, and nationally the percentage of deaths due to COVID rises to 95 percent.
Two: The SC Aging Research Network, composed of USC, Clemson and MUSC researchers, just released a Health Disparities report on the 50+ in SC for AARP. (This report was published online on Feb. 17 in the Moultrie News.)
The state’s mortality rate for South Carolinians 50 and older due to COVID-19 is 11.2 per 100,000 for Whites, but 26 per 100,000 for Black South Carolinians. In other words, our African American brethren die at more than twice the rate of white folks. And those greater numbers are more evident on the younger end of the 65-plus+.
Quoting our January 2021 Health Disparities Report, “Since Blacks have higher rates of COVID-19 than Whites, coordinated public health and healthcare efforts should focus on assuring they receive vaccinations as soon as possible.”
Three: SC AARP is partnering with Tricia Richardson with SC Thrive and Lathran Woodard with the South Carolina Primary Health Care Association to find seniors in rural areas who lack access to the internet and get them signed up for a vaccine. AARP has identified about 38,000 AARP member households in our state who likely do not have access to the internet, are 65 or older and lower-income.
I hope that you will make sure that the most vulnerable to disease and death from COVID continue to be the focus of vaccine delivery.
Canceling current appointments for the first vaccines for the 65+ is a little like Russian Roulette. Will the 69-year-old cancer survivor safely make it to a hard-fought appointment if it’s canceled or rescheduled before contracting some COVID variant?”