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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

Bill Walsh: Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, please press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. As we enter a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic, there's reason for optimism as cases and deaths continue to decline, and the country begins to resume a sense of normalcy. But of course, we've been here before, and many older adults remain wary as guidelines loosen and talk of a new variant looms. The need for trustworthy, accurate information and guidance has never been more critical.

Today, we'll hear from experts about these issues and more. We'll also get an update from Capitol Hill on important legislation affecting older Americans. If you've participated in one of our telephone town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your question live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. And if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, go ahead and post your question in the comments section.

Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, drop your question in the comments section.

We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including an infectious disease specialist, AARP's chief executive officer, and an expert on misinformation. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org[CL(1] /coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, drop your question in the comments.

Now I'd like to welcome our guests. First is Taison Bell, M.D. and M.B.A. He is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Virginia. This week, the National Minority Quality Forum selected Dr. Bell as a 40 Under 40 Leaders in health. Welcome to the program, Dr. Bell.

Taison Bell: (inaudible)

Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. I'd also like to welcome Jo Ann Jenkins. Jo Ann is the chief executive officer at AARP. Welcome to the program, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Thanks, Bill. I'm delighted to be here.

Bill Walsh: And later we'll be joined by Julio Vaqueiro, a reporter and anchor of the popular Spanish-language program Noticias Telemundo, the Emmy Award-winning newscast on Telemundo. Welcome, Julio.

Julio Vaqueiro: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. And as a reminder to our listeners, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time, or you can drop your comments into the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Let's go ahead and get started, Dr. Bell. COVID cases in the U.S. are at an eight-month low, but experts anticipate a rise in infections this spring as the omicron subvariant BA.2 gains traction. What do we know today about BA.2 from its spread in Europe and elsewhere?

Taison Bell: That's a really good question, Bill. And let me just start by saying that I am getting so tired of the alphabet soup that we're having to go through, both the Greek alphabet and our own. But this new subvariant, so the BA.2 is a subvariant of the original omicron variant. So it's a child of it or a cousin, so to speak. So a lot of similarities, but there are some key differences. One of them is that it does spread a little more easier than the original omicron does. And that was even substantial because we saw the omicron spread even more easily than delta. So it's getting more and more transmissible. It's about 30 percent more transmissible. The other two questions are severity; is it a more or less severe version of omicron. It looks like it's about the same. And if you remember, the original omicron, that severity was a little bit less than delta, but the fact that it spread to so many more people is what made it such a, on a global scale, a severe illness. And then the last part is the erosion that vaccines have against it, because we've seen that the omicron variant, the original one, was able to erode some of that vaccine protection from symptomatic disease despite the fact that severe disease protection holds up pretty well. But that looks like it's about the same too. So what we're seeing in Europe now, they're about three weeks into their rising cases. And what's encouraging is that we're starting to see some of those case rises go down a little bit. So maybe they have hit their peak already, and we'll have to see what it looks like a couple of weeks down and see if that trend continues. But what's really encouraging is that they have not seen a large rise in their hospitalization as a result of the rise in their cases. So, I don't want to presume the same will happen here. There are some differences with some of the Europe populations, they are highly vaccinated compared to us, they have more rates of boosters compared to us, so I don't want to say it'll look about the same, but some encouraging signs here. Now in the U.S., our percentage of BA.2 cases is now about one in four cases. The Northeast is leading that right now, with states like Connecticut and Massachusetts having over 50 percent of their cases being due to BA.2. And so far, I haven't seen a surge in hospitalization. So, very good signs. And we're kind of in a situation where I imagine someone from Florida or Louisiana is used to a similar sort of problem. You have a storm that's off the coast, you're not exactly sure which direction it's going to go, and while you're hoping for the best, you're preparing for the worst. So, you know, in the case of a storm, you make sure you have your flashlight, and you have your batteries, a plan to get out of town if you need to. I would say, do the same for this variant coming. We're not exactly sure what it's going to look like here in the U.S., but there are some things that we can do to make sure that you're safe. So, you know, go to COVIDtest.org and order your free COVID tests. Each person is allowed two sets or two sets of four tests, or dial 1-800-232-0233. Get yourself a high-quality mask. There are N95 masks that are available for free at many pharmacies, and even look into where treatment options would be available if you were to get sick and you have some of those risk factors. So, there are things that we can do to protect ourselves and prepare despite the fact that it looks like, hopefully, we won't see as much of a rise in hospitalizations as we saw with the original omicron.

Bill Walsh: Right. Well, thanks so much for that. Now, now to be clear, there are two omicron derivatives, is that correct? There's BA.2 and BA.2.2. Are there any significant distinctions, and most importantly, are the vaccines effective against them?

Taison Bell: Yeah, so the vaccines are effective against severe disease. We've had lots of reporting showing how for symptomatic disease that can wane over time, but when it comes to severe disease — and what we really care about is keeping people out of the hospital, keeping people alive — they do a very good job of that. Now, this BA.2.2 subvariant was this specific case where there is a combination of a virus that had a combination of both the original omicron and the subvariant of BA.2, and they kind of combined. And we'll see more instances of this, but you know, the management should be the same: Make sure you get your booster, have a high-quality mask, and all the other things that we know work to prevent people from getting sick and infected.

Bill Walsh: Now, Pfizer and Moderna recently requested FDA emergency use authorization for a fourth dose. Citing data from Israel, Pfizer said adults over 65 are vulnerable for severe illness and future variants because of waning immunity. What does the Israeli data show, and how quickly does immunity decrease?

Taison Bell: Right, another great question. And I've gotten this question from a lot of members in the community. So first, the first thing I just want to say, and just in case there are any listeners who fit this category, there are a group of people in the United States that qualify for a fourth dose, or a second booster, right now. And those are people who have suppressed immune systems, so folks with active cancer on chemotherapy, for instance, certain immunocompromising conditions, or if you're on medications that suppress your immune system, like steroids, these are people who may qualify for a fourth dose already, and if you're wondering about that, you know, talk to your health care provider to make sure. Because you want to get that all ready. Now, when it comes to a fourth dose for the general population, we've seen that a few countries have started to do this already: the U.K., Germany and Israel. This is based on some data that came out of Israel, so two studies, one that looked at health care population. And what they showed was a moderate decrease in your symptomatic disease from COVID with a fourth dose. Now, your protection against severe disease, you know, hospitalization and death, that was still very good despite, you know, people who may have gotten a third or fourth dose, it was very good between the two groups. Now, you can make the argument that for health care workers, symptomatic disease is very important, because we want to have health care workers on the front lines. But when you looked at another population, 60 and above, who were also offered the fourth dose, they saw that the protection from symptomatic disease also was much better from the severe disease to the order of about four times more protection if you got that fourth dose compared to people who have just got three doses. So, four times the protection is very good, but the one thing that was still encouraging was the numbers were overall very small for people who got severe disease, who got a booster, at least one booster. So out of over 1 million people that were studied, people over the age of 60 or above who have received at least one booster, they were comparing if you got a third, if you stayed with a third dose or got a fourth dose, and they only had about 230 or so cases out of 1 million people. So, that's encouraging news that the vaccines still provide very good protection from the severe disease. You still get additional protection with a fourth dose, but it's still very good with a person who's boosted. Now, what that means for us, Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for FDA authorization; Pfizer, I believe for 65 and up, and Moderna asked for authorization for all Americans. I think based on the trends and what we've seen in other countries in Europe, I would anticipate that we would at least approve a fourth dose for those who are 65 and older, yet to be determined for all of these, but specifically for younger people and for health care workers. But I would anticipate it for those who are 65 and older. And what I've told people is regardless of their situation, get all the doses that you qualify for regardless of your situation, because the vaccines are very safe, they're very effective. If you've had omicron, there is a suggestion of protection from this BA.2 variant, but I wouldn't count on that. I would still get that booster. And we'll see in the coming weeks if it'll be authorized.

Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that, Dr. Bell. Now it's time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Taison Bell. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your questions live. And if you'd like to listen to this program in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Instructions in Spanish)

Bill Walsh: Now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: I'm glad to be here today, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right. Who do we have first on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Our first call is actually going to be from Facebook. It's Pauline, and she says, "Should we get a second booster if it's been six months or more since our last booster and we're planning to travel by plane in the near future?"

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you take that?

Taison Bell: Good question. So, if there is a fourth dose that's authorized, the timeline is going to be determined by the FDA and the CDC. What we've seen so far is five months is that time window between when you can qualify for another booster shot, so I would anticipate that would be the case. And as far as timing it up with travel, what I would say is when you're eligible for it, go ahead and get it, especially if you are anticipating traveling, because it does take some time for you to develop that protection. So the vaccine, once it goes into your arm, it takes about 10 to 14 days for you to get the benefit of protection from that, from the antibody boost. And so you want to get it ahead of time before you go and travel.

Bill Walsh: Jesse, who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Our first caller on the phone today is going to be Vito from Michigan.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Vito, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Vito: Yeah, hi. So, I'm recently diagnosed with cancer, looking at maybe 12 months of chemotherapy ahead, and I'm wondering, is there any data about the best time to get a fourth booster shot? You know, I've heard some stuff about, you know, if you get that fourth booster while you're in chemo, it may not be so effective. But can you give me some ideas around that or thoughts?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you help Vito?

Taison Bell: Yeah, thanks for the question, Vito, and I certainly wish you well with your treatment. And the advice that I would give to anyone who is high risk, regardless of what they're high risk from, is to get that booster right away. And soon as you qualify for it, go ahead and get it because that risk is ongoing, and we don't want to wait until, you know, some event that we anticipate a higher risk because the risk is already around us. And we're seeing that cases are increasing here in the U.S. BA.2 is making up about one out of every four cases already. We're starting to see an uptick in New York City, and I anticipate we'll see an increase in the coming weeks all across the country. So the best time is now. So I would say, go ahead and get that fourth dose. It seems like you would qualify for it.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Bell. Jesse, who's up next?

Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is going to be Stan in Texas.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Stan, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Stan: Yes, my question is what does the data need to be in order to normalize COVID with everyday life, such as flu and common colds.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you take that?

Taison Bell: Yes, it was a little muffled, but the question I think I heard from Stan was how does the COVID compared to influenza and other respiratory illnesses? So, you know, what we've seen from COVID is that it is more severe than influenza. So across the world, there's about three to five hundred thousand deaths from influenza every year. Of course, we also have a vaccine for influenza as well that I advise everyone to get, and we're still in flu season. But we've had 6 million deaths from COVID over the last two years. So certainly a more severe illness. Part of that is due to the fact that it is more severe, particularly for older individuals to have the disease itself, but it's also much more transmissible than influenza itself. So, you know, for those two reasons, it is a very severe illness and one of the most transmissible respiratory viruses that we've ever seen. Now, if you're vaccinated and boosted, that does bring your risk of having a severe outcome from COVID down substantially, to even below the level you would expect from influenza. So, you know, one of those reasons why you want to make sure that you're protected, that you get all the doses that you're, that are available to you, get vaccinated, and make sure to get boosted.

Bill Walsh: Great advice. And we're going to take more listener questions shortly, but now I'd like to welcome AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins to talk about how AARP is supporting older adults and the importance of trustworthy COVID education. Welcome, Joann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Thank you, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right. We are delighted to have you here today. Now, the global pandemic has profound implications for all of us, and reliable, consistent and unbiased information is crucial at a time of uncertainty. What's AARP been doing along these lines?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, let me just say first, I am so proud of all of the work of our team here at AARP and the tens of thousands of volunteers who help us, you know, really carry out our programs. I think first and foremost, what has been so rewarding is the work that we've done through our advocacy work, and the fact that AARP does its best every day to make sure that we are providing trusted, factual information for you to make your decisions. And I think you've, hopefully you've seen that in our publications and our newsletters and our online information that we provide to all of our members and the general public, for that matter. You know, as we've been advocating over these last two years, it's been so important for us to make sure that Congress and the administration understand how important it is, and how powerful your voice and your vote is in making decisions for everyday people all over this country. You know, we've been advocating and at the front line for making sure that Social Security was protected during this last two years. We've been advocating and really making a strong voice, not just inside Washington, but really working with governors all over the country to make sure of the needs of people in nursing homes, that they were able to get that PPE equipment and COVID vaccines and all of the other specialty items that they needed to carry on to make sure our loved ones were safe. You know, we were there advocating to make sure that Medicare allowed telemedicine appointments to be qualified under their Medicare program. You know, and just seeing the impact that all of the folks here at AARP, and hearing your voices all across this country, it makes me proud to be a part of AARP. We know that trusted information, factual information, just to the point is so helpful to all of you to make sure that you make the right decisions. And, you know, the program today with the other leading experts on this call is, you know, point of clarity about, you know, what's going on with COVID, what you guys need to be doing, are thinking about, and how you want to approach your treatment, your vaccine, but making sure that we're presenting both sides of the story, but always advocating for people 50 and older in this country.

Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that, Jo Ann. You mentioned misinformation, and, you know, during the pandemic, we have arguably had an infodemic as well, with vast amounts of true, untrue and misleading information out there that's really clouded some complex issues. The truth is it's led to unnecessary loss of life and real divisions within our country. How do Americans rise above misinformation and polarization?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, I think what's so important, and I've said this for many years, the erosion of the civil discourse, that we can't sit across from each other and have a decent and common conversation. Whether we agree or not is one thing, but, you know, we ought to be able to have civil conversations. And every day, at AARP, we work to try to bring that voice to the conversation; we try to present people on our tele-town hall meetings, or you know, when we're advocating or we're trying to send out information to all of our members, that we present both sides of the story. And I think that's so important. You know, more than anything, we want you to exercise your right to vote. That is so important. And I tell, when I'm up there advocating and talking to members of Congress, I'm making sure that they know that people who are older in this country are the people who actually elect politicians every day. And so they ought to be listening to our voice and really listening to what it is, the issues that we're concerned around, whether it's Social Security, Medicare, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, which is so important to people's financial security and their health security. And so I think that's what I would say. How do we, how do we keep that civil discourse? How do we have conversations about difficult topics? You know, how do we make sure that people have the information and access to where they vote, the information and background for who they want to vote for? Our goal is to present that information to them, and then for our members to decide for themselves what candidate they think is going to best position them to live longer, healthier lives.

Bill Walsh: Right. Now, one thing we're keenly aware of here at AARP is that 93 percent of the COVID fatalities were among people 50 and older, and the pandemic really revealed some inequities among older adults, low-income families and people of color. How do these inequities shape AARP’s approach going forward?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, I think what's, you know, the point you made; 93 percent of the [900,000] people who died were 50 and older. That is so key. And then we saw disproportionately a number of Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Alaskan Indians had disproportionally affected, or they died from COVID, or had less access to the vaccines that they needed. And I think, you know, we are always there for all of our members, but this COVID treatment process, everything that we've been going through these last two years, has really shone a spotlight on where disparities exist and where we ought to pay more attention to make sure that the policies we put in place, the execution of disbursement of vaccines, all of those things take into consideration those who have been underserved through the course of decades. And I think, you know, COVID just brought it to the forefront in a way that we've been talking about for years, but really you couldn't see it firsthand. And I think all of us, unfortunately, now have a story to tell about a loved one who had COVID, whether they died from COVID or whether they overcame it. And so we have to continuously work. And so our work at AARP is going to be steadfast around health security and that financial resilience, and keeping in the back of our minds those who have been disproportionately affected, and trying to find solutions at the national and state and local levels to make sure that it's included in the conversations we have so that we can bring some parity to the situation.

Bill Walsh: Now, you would, you were just talking about voting a moment ago, and of course, we're in a big election year. It always seems we're in an election year, doesn't it? But as we know, there have been some widespread changes in voting rules and regulations in many states around the country. How is AARP ensuring that older adults have their voices heard and understand how to vote on election day?

Jo Ann Jenkins: So, let me reiterate again for our listeners: People 50 and older vote in larger voting blocs than any other voting blocs in the country. And so you are ultimately deciding who will be elected, and very important that you get out there and exercise your vote. At AARP, I'm so excited, we're going to be launching our Our Voices Decide campaign around how we educate our members and people 50 and older in this country about what's going on, what's changed in their state so that they know how the laws have changed, where your voting place may have changed. Making sure that we provide factual information on the candidates on the issues that we care about: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, nursing care, that has been so big of an issue in COVID, with so many of us having a loved one in a nursing care facility, and making sure that, you know, we look at how do we address those nursing home needs, and also about how we address in-home care. So many of you are in-home caregivers for a spouse, a friend or a loved one. And so those things are going to be front and center, whether they are a sitting politician, or a member of government, or they’re running for office. We hope to make sure that we share information on all of the candidates to our members, so that they have an opportunity to decide for themselves, you know, who they're going to vote for.

Bill Walsh: Right, and I understand AARP is going to be printing or publishing state-by-state voter guides so folks can look to see how the rules have changed in their states.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Absolutely, and you'll be able to go directly to the aarp.org website or your local state office website to be able to get that information on who's up for election, who are the candidates running for each individual office, and where they stand. And so, if you need additional information, by all means, send it to us by Facebook, by chat, whatever way you communicate back with us. I'm always, when I come into my office, and I see the stacks of letters that I hear from AARP members. I know you know how to get in touch with us.

Bill Walsh: OK. Now, finally, your leadership, Jo Ann, at AARP has given voice to millions and helped people age with dignity and purpose. What fuels your passion, and what gives you hope?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, you know, I think back to, I came to Washington 40 years ago to really be a part of the political process, to really work on issues that I think would change society. And I think, I feel, just if not more committed to being able to do that, I'm so fortunate to be in this role here at AARP. You know, I tell my story all the time that I grew up in lower Alabama; we call it LA, Lower Alabama, but had the opportunity to come to Washington some 40-plus years ago, had the opportunity to work with a number of federal agencies and presidents from both parties during my time here. And just to see the power and the impact and the voice of AARP, and the voice of our members and how we can do good for others across society, it excites me every day. And so I'm glad that we're all back here in the office today to be able to continue that work.

Bill Walsh: All right, that voice is more important than ever. Thanks so much for being with us today, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Thank you.

Bill Walsh: Now let's turn back to our medical expert, Dr. Taison Bell, of the University of Virginia. Remember, if you'd like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Dr. Bell, COVID has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities, who are almost twice as likely to die as white patients were. Why is that, and what can be done to change this?

Taison Bell: Very good question, Bill. And a lot of this connects to what we refer [to] as the social determinants of health. So a lot of times, you know — and physicians can fall into this trap, too — we think of health as what happens within the walls of a clinic or a hospital. But health really means the circumstance of your life, which includes the air you breathe, the water you drink, the walkable space in your neighborhood, the foods in your grocery stores, your ease in getting access to medicines and health care professionals. These are all things that tie in to your health. And the problem is while now the vast majority of people now would say that Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities deserve equal access to opportunities, our institutions in the structure of society was set up at a time when people, a majority of people did not feel that way in equal opportunity. And this gets to the concept of structural racism. And I don't want to over-generalize because there's no universally shared experience of being white, Black, Hispanic or Indigenous in this country, but there are trends that people from underrepresented communities have a trend toward living in communities that have been deprived of these access to resources. And I can just tell you the story of my growing up. I grew up in a community that was historically designated as a Black neighborhood. It was extremely difficult if you were Black to buy a house in one of the white neighborhoods in my city. And my neighborhood was actually a redlined area, which meant that the FHA, or Federal Housing Authority, did not insure the loans going into that community. Of course, that means that the loans were risky, the rates were higher, and that was an undesirable community. And as a result of that, the appreciation or the value of your home did not increase in those areas to the extent in other areas. And even though redlining was outlawed in 1977, that got passed, persisted, and now the average home in a white neighborhood has gained $200,000 more value than a comparable home in a Black neighborhood. Now, that has more consequences other than just the lack of an appreciation of wealth. That means there's less Black-owned businesses because there's less opportunities to take a loan against your home to start a business or send someone to college. That translates to less investment in the public schools. Less economic opportunities means that businesses are less likely to come into those communities. So, grocery stores and pharmacies and even health care providers are less likely to open practices in those areas. And so in my neighborhood, there were no pharmacies; there are still no private chain pharmacies; there are no grocery stores. I get a lot of our food from a corner store, which doesn't have access to healthier food options. And a lot of these translate ultimately to higher rates of chronic disease — so, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, you know, what have you — and this is a setup for having a severe outcome from COVID-19, and not only COVID, but influenza and many of the other health care issues that Americans suffer from. There are higher rates in these communities. And, you know, how to fix that, you know, first, is acknowledging what the problem is and tackling it head-on. I think smart policies like the Affordable Care Act that closed the insurance gap, that certainly helped, but I just laid out that the problem is way broader than just access to health care. I think there needs to be targeted investment in programs to reverse the economic and social harm that has happened in these communities before we can begin to start to reverse what we're seeing.

Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that. It really does have a ripple effect, doesn't it? And so let me follow up. You know, there's a widely held assumption that technology and data will close the gap and improve health care regardless of race or economic background, but that didn't happen during the pandemic. In fact, a recent analysis suggests the opposite. Bias data led to worse care for people of color. What's going on here, and what happened?

Taison Bell: I'm glad you brought that up because this was a large hope of moving forward in the future. And, you know, the good thing I can say for myself is that, you know, we still have job security because these algorithms are still not doing what they were supposed to do. But on a serious note, the issue primarily is the fact that when you give bias data or training to these models, they are going to continue to produce the outcomes that are limited by your own bias. And I can give you an example: There's a push toward these autonomous driving vehicles that you can kind of sit in and the car will drive itself. And you, as a human team, train that car and the computer to drive safely. And you can put all the time in the world to do that and make it safe and make a good product, but if you take that car from the United States and take it to London, where people drive on the left side of the road, that car is going to have problems because of the biases that we put into the training algorithm. And likewise, if we have biases in how we interpret data, that's going to bear out in these algorithms and artificial intelligence. I actually do work with a computer science team, and one of the things they always say is, when you put garbage in, you get garbage out, which means that the data that you use to train these algorithms in artificial intelligence needs to be very good. And one of the issues with data collection is that it's often incomplete, so age and sex are the most reliable data that we collect, but past that, it's very spotty, including socioeconomic status and race and ethnicity, and the data needs to come from multiple different sources, and not even just from health care databases. It's hard enough to get consistent information from health care databases. There's many different, we don't have a national health care system, so there's not one database like in Israel, there's only two. We have multiple. So we need to, a lot more work needs to go into getting these sorts of solutions ready for prime time.

Bill Walsh: Right, thanks so much for that. Now it's time to address more of your questions about the coronavirus pandemic with Dr. Taison Bell. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is going to be Elizabeth from Nevada.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Elizabeth, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Elizabeth: Yes, can you hear me?

Bill Walsh: I can. Go ahead with your question.

Elizabeth: OK, I'm curious. I still feel that there is a substantial number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., and I'm curious as far as what population is actually dying from this disease. And also, I've experienced a substantial or a significant health care worker shortage. I've worked in health care for many years and know there's always been a shortage, just exacerbated substantially. And it's very, very difficult to get an appointment with your physician. And I'm curious what treatments are available for COVID. Are they actually treating people, because it seems like there's varying information on that? Like, sometimes they say there's a shortage of treatments, and then other times they say, well, it's available here, there and everywhere. But I'm curious.

Bill Walsh: OK, Elizabeth. Thanks. OK, well, two great questions there. Dr. Bell, can you help? I mean, she makes a very good point. You know, with all of the loosened restrictions regarding social distancing and masking, it's easy to forget that more than a thousand people a day are dying in the United States.

Taison Bell: That's right, and that's a metric that I always come back to. You know, this is an improvement actually over our highs. But that's still an unacceptable high number of people that are dying from COVID. And age does remain one of the strongest risk factors. So, 74 percent of the people who die in his country have been people who are 65 and older, and that's part of the reason why you see, you know, seniors stepping up to the plate and getting vaccinated and boosted. The highest rates of vaccination are people in this forum. So, but that remains to be one of the strongest risk factors. And that's why it's so important to protect yourself and get vaccinated and boosted. And I'm glad she brought up the issue about health care scarcity and the health care workforce. You know, I had a friend who made an analogy that going through COVID in a COVID surge is like going through a war, in that, you know, the conflict may end at some point where you're going to have scars from that conflict that takes years to heal, even if it does heal. And I feel like the health care workforce is in that state where we're deeply scarred. We're not out of the woods by any means, but a lot of people have just decided that it's time for them to move on to something else or retire early or go into another field. And we're taking losses as a result of these repeated surges. And so I'm not surprised, unfortunately, that people are having issues getting appointments, and if we're in a surge situation, I expect that to be even worse. That some place at that, that cancel elective procedures, for instances. So, you know, we have to do some work to try to make sure that health care workers are healthy mentally and physically, and able to stay in the workforce and recruit more people in. But these are going to be, you know, some of the lingering effects of COVID once we enter that endemic phase.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Bell. Jesse, let's go back to the line. Who do we have next?

Jesse Salinas: Our next question is going to be from Nancy on Facebook, and she asks, "What work has been done to help people with long COVID?" She's having it currently. She's having both memory and heart issues.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, long COVID is something we've heard a lot about, but I don't think we know a lot about. What can you tell us?

Taison Bell: Yeah, I'm glad for the question because long COVID is, again, we talked about the lingering effects of COVID-19. I think this will be one of the other lasting legacies of COVID, unfortunately. We're doing a lot of research now to try to clarify exactly what long COVID is. It has very different flavors depending on the person, but it ranges from, you know, many different sorts of side effects, ranging from persistent loss of taste and smell, cognitive issues. Some people have lung issues resolving and they can't resume their usual activities. So these are all things that have been connected to the long COVID. Now, there's, the research studies that are going on are recruiting patients to try to clarify exactly what disease there is, but this is something that we're learning about in real time as the disease goes on. And so I imagine that we'll learn more and more over time and hopefully learn some more about the treatments. The good thing that we know is that vaccination and boosting does lower that risk of long COVID along with some of the other lasting effects of it. So, another reason to do that, but, you know, I would say for people who are suffering from long COVID that you're certainly, you're not unseen, you're not alone, and to, you know, keep speaking with your medical providers about what's, what new is out there, potential therapeutics or research trials.

Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Bell, thank you so much. And as a reminder to our listeners and viewers, to ask your question, go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad to get into the queue, and if you're on Facebook or YouTube, go ahead and drop it into the comments section. We're going to take more of your live questions shortly, but before we do, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP. Welcome, Nancy.

Nancy LeaMond: Hi, Bill. Delighted to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. I would like to take a few minutes to update our listeners about how AARP is fighting for them on issues they care about the most. Nancy, what's the latest news from Capitol Hill on the advocacy front?

Nancy LeaMond: Lowering the cost of prescription drugs continues to be a major focus for AARP, both in Washington and in state capitals across the country. Just in January, prices went up yet again on 75 percent of the most prescribed drugs in Medicare. And right now, there's a bill in Congress that would finally let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices and would cap out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare beneficiaries. We have never been this close to major prescription drug reform. More than 80 percent of voters across all political parties support the reforms in this bill, and our elected leaders need to keep their promise to Americans and lower those prescription drug prices now.

Bill Walsh: What are the specific changes that AARP is fighting for?

Nancy LeaMond: AARP supports four major policies in the bill that's before Congress right now that will make a huge difference for seniors struggling to afford their medications. First, Medicare must be able to negotiate the price of some prescription drugs. Americans today pay three times more than what people in other countries pay for the exact same drugs, and it's inexcusable. Second, the bill would set a $2,000 per year cap on out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. This would provide significant financial relief to people who take medications that can cost tens of thousands of dollars every single year. Third, the bill would penalize companies that increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation. And fourth, the bill would cap what people pay out of pocket for insulin at $35 per month.

Bill Walsh: It'd be tremendous benefits. Now, as the pandemic rages on into its third year, can you tell us how AARP has approached advocacy during this time?

Nancy LeaMond: I want to repeat the statistic mentioned earlier that is staggering, but shows why this work is so important. The United States has now seen nearly 1 million COVID deaths. Ninety-three percent of these deaths — 93 percent — have been among those aged 50 and older. That means that in the past two years, we've lost nearly 900,000 older Americans to this virus: parents and grandparents, community members and friends. It's heartbreaking, and it's unacceptable. Our country needs to do better. And this is why we fight for the needs of older Americans every single day. Throughout the pandemic, through two different administrations and many congressional bills, AARP has fought hard to protect older adults and will continue to be at the forefront of helping people age safely with independence and dignity.

Bill Walsh: Now, Nancy, nursing home residents have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. What kinds of changes are we creating in America's nursing homes?

Nancy LeaMond: Well, America needs to reform its long-term health care system; we know that. The pandemic has put a spotlight on existing health and safety issues. Nursing home residents and staff make up 1 percent of the population but have accounted for around 23 percent of COVID deaths. This is a national disgrace. AARP has been leading the fight, and the good news is we're beginning to see reforms that will improve nursing home quality, safety and care. We fought for increased transparency about illnesses and deaths, and improved access for visitation, vaccines and testing, and more support for family caregivers. Now we're urging the federal government to take steps to ensure minimum staffing standards and hold nursing homes accountable if they aren't providing quality care. And also, if you have a loved one in a nursing home today, it's worth noting that one in three nursing home residents still has not received their COVID booster. Please don't take for granted that your family member has received theirs. Call and make sure they get their booster.

Bill Walsh: All right, Nancy, thank you so much for that update. Now, we've gotten a lot of good information today about COVID, but COVID misinformation continues to flourish. In fact, it has undermined public health efforts to end the pandemic. We've introduced a segment we call Four-Minute Fact Check, where we ask experts from MediaWise, a media literacy program that helps seniors spot misinformation, to help debunk misleading claims and understand why misinformation is so problematic. Today I'd like to welcome Julio Vaqueiro, a reporter and anchor of Noticias Telemundo. He's a news ambassador for MediaWise en Español, a program that educates Spanish speakers over 50. Thank you for joining us today, Julio.

Julio Vaqueiro: Thank you very much, Bill. I'm happy to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right, we're happy to have you. And Julio, how does misinformation compete with or undermine the work of journalists?

Julio Vaqueiro: So, I think journalism is more important now than ever, it's essential for the survival of democracy, it's vital for the well-being of society as a whole, and now with so much noise around us and with so much misinformation, it is more important than ever. It is true that it's more challenging to do our job because misinformation is not only about spreading falsehoods. It's also about making people doubt about the facts to question the truth. And that's why we have to be impeccable in what we do. We have to take extra care on double checking the facts and double-checking the sources so that people keep on trusting real journalism in the long run.

Bill Walsh: All right, well, there are a lot of efforts out there to refute bad or intentionally misleading information. Are they working?

Julio Vaqueiro: Well, I hope they are. I mean, as you said, a lot of work is being done right now, especially in English. And I think we have to work more on this for the Spanish-speaker audience. But, for example, at Noticias Telemundo, we joined efforts with the Poynter Institute and MediaWise, and we launched MediaWise en Español. So, what we're doing is offering workshops and videos online and YouTube, and you can also find them in WhatsApp if you ask for them, and in these videos, we try to teach people how to spot falsehoods and how to find misinformation, and how to know if something they find online, it's true or it's false, so that we make people ask themselves if they should share information or not. And so far, it's been working with, got a good reception from the audience. So, I think we keep on working and I hope we keep on doing these efforts.

Bill Walsh: You were recently reporting from one of the hot spots on the planet, the Poland-Ukraine border. One link between the invasion of Ukraine and COVID is disinformation that originates with Russia. How does Russia employ disinformation as a weapon? And what is the benefit to Russia to spread COVID disinformation?

Julio Vaqueiro: Yeah, so we went to the border between Portland and Ukraine precisely because we wanted to see the problem and the humanitarian crisis firsthand. And that's why it's so important to have reporters on the ground looking at what's happening and sharing what they see. That's the only way to know exactly what's going on in the Ukraine, because to be honest, at war times, both sides use propaganda. Now, when it comes to misinformation, the mechanisms that Russians use and that the whole infrastructure that they have to spread misinformation is very sophisticated, and we started, during the 2020 campaign, we've seen it during this COVID pandemic, and what they are trying to do, and U.S. officials have said it clearly, is that they are trying to threaten stability, and they are trying to divide the American public so that the domestic issues in America are big enough so that the government has no time to focus on international issues. So that's the goal number one. That's why we have to be very careful on the sources we get the information from, and the news from.

Bill Walsh: Experts say that social media sites are delayed or ignoring large amounts of misinformation in Spanish-language sites. And this has made matters worse, because we know the Hispanic/Latino communities heavily use social media for news. Are social media sites taking Hispanic/Latino audiences for granted?

Julio Vaqueiro: Well, I'm not sure if they're taking it for granted, but I would say this: Social media platforms do need to work a lot on eliminating falsehoods and misinformation in Spanish from their platforms. They have a lot of work to do to serve the Hispanic community in a better way. It's true that Latinos use these social platforms more than other groups; many service show that. However, they're not the only group that receive news and get their news from social media, but they do use Facebook and WhatsApp a lot. And they do it because that's a way to get in touch with family members in other countries and in other parts of the United States. So, and the thing is that they're sharing this information in Spanish or in Spanglish, and the algorithm of social media is not ready to spot that misinformation in other languages. So that's where the work should be focused on, I believe, attending the Spanish information and Spanish misinformation and Spanglish misinformation.

Bill Walsh: OK, Julio Vaqueiro, thank you so much for that, and thank you for your excellent work in this area. I'd like to bring in Dr. Bell again to address some of the latest COVID misinformation. Dr. Bell, I'm going to mention a handful of claims about COVID and vaccines that we've seen recently. Can you quickly address each one and tell us whether they are true or false? Let's start with one we've heard quite a bit, that COVID vaccines are experimental. True or false?

Taison Bell: That is false. They are fully FDA approved; 250 million people have received doses. This is no experiment. It's about as sure that they work as a ball that you toss in the air is going to come back down to earth.

Bill Walsh: OK. Now, another one we've heard is that COVID vaccines can alter your DNA. True or false?

Taison Bell: That's also false. So, your cells protect your DNA in a special compartment within your cell, and the vaccine does not even interact with that compartment. So it does not even come into contact with your DNA, much less change it.

Bill Walsh: Now, despite news to the contrary, there's still information out there that says vaccines aren't effective. True or false.

Taison Bell: False. They're incredibly effective. They're one of the most successful vaccines that we've ever, that we've ever had. And they're just, they're great. So false.

Bill Walsh: Now, here's one that's lingered for quite some time: Masks don't work to protect you against the coronavirus. True or false.

Taison Bell: That is false. The science is clear that masks do work, but especially with omicron, the type of mask that you wear matters, and so what I tell people is to wear a high-quality mask, at least a surgical or medical grade. And then if you have a, if you really want to protect yourself, wear an N95.

Bill Walsh: OK. And here's one that's been particularly stubborn. We hear that vaccines cause heart issues. True or false.

Taison Bell: So, this was a, this came up in the context of heart inflammation, and there were studies that looked at heart inflammation from the vaccine. But those have largely been debunked. And so their most recent study looked at 192 million people, over half of the people in our country who've received the vaccine, and we have something like 1,500 cases of heart inflammation. Now, I'll remind you that COVID itself causes heart inflammation at a much higher rate. So yeah, I'm being very serious about this, Bill: You are more likely to be trampled by a cow than you are to have an issue from heart inflammation from the vaccine.

Bill Walsh: OK. Dr. Bell and Julio Vaqueiro, thank you so much for that information. Dr. Bell, let me ask you another question that we've seen recently. Now recent analyses using data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have identified a concerning list of long-term complications from COVID, including increased incidents of heart disease, stroke and blood clots. And this week, a study in the medical journal The Lancet, using the veteran data, indicates a significant increased risk for diabetes following infection. Given these risks, if you've had COVID, should you visit your primary care physician more frequently in the year to come?

Taison Bell: Well, I think the general advice is to make sure that you plug in with primary care in general, because we have data showing that so many people have neglected their primary care in the midst of the pandemic, especially early on in the pandemic. But, Bill, this is one of these issues that I think we're going to learn more about as time goes on, because as we think of diabetes as a multi-organ disease, we need to start thinking about COVID the same, as a multi-organ disease that causes many different problems in different organ systems. Now, this VA study that you mentioned was very interesting. Now, the VA is a different population than the average American, but they did find that there were similarities across many different subsets. So, among women veterans compared to men, racial minorities compared to white veterans, people of different age, people of different body mass index, for instance, they all had this phenomenon of a higher chance developing diabetes after COVID. And so what this really lets us know is that we need to think about this as a complex disease, and the other thing to point out that I found was fascinating in this study, the risk was actually higher if you had more severe disease. So if you were hospitalized, your risk was three times more as opposed to 46 percent more. If you were in the ICU, the most severe cases, you were five times more likely to have diabetes develop as opposed to some who weren't as sick. And so again, this underscores the importance of trying to prevent severe disease. Not only does it keep you out of the hospital, out of the ICU, but it looks like it might decrease your chances of developing these other complications down the road.

Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Now, a quick follow-up to that: We've seen some additional items in the news. just in the last few days actually. This week Moderna shared that it anticipates a fourth booster this fall combined with vaccines for seasonal respiratory viruses like the flu. And they're seeking FDA approval of a pediatric low dose for very young children. What should our listeners and viewers know about this news?

Taison Bell: Well, I think, you know, news like this is very encouraging. I have a 4-year-old who's at home, and like many other parents of young children, I have just been waiting for the day where I can get her vaccinated and make sure that she's protected. Luckily, we know that very young people are unlikely to have severe disease, but it does happen, and vaccines are very safe and effective. So if that gets authorized, you know, she'll be first in line to try to get vaccinated. And when it comes to boosters and what the future holds, you know, one of the things that really I've learned to not try to do, in the course of the pandemic, it's predict the future, because so many people just get it wrong. So there's a chance that we may have to have repeated boosters, but I'm not exactly sold on that idea just yet, just because we've seen how well the vaccines protect from severe COVID and hospitalization and death. And there'll get a point where we'll have to decide as a country, how aggressive we want to act toward trying to prevent symptomatic disease, because having, you know, low-risk COVID, you know, we have a cough and maybe a fever, but you're overall OK, is very different than landing in the hospital, and we can largely prevent those severe outcomes. That metric might shift in terms of how aggressively we go after it. But as far as, you know, are we going to need an annual shot? I'm not sure at this point.

Bill Walsh: Thank you for that perspective, and we're going to have you back on the program to give us an update. This has been a really informative discussion. Thanks to all of our panelists for answering our questions today. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners, for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of the Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus starting tomorrow, March 25th. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. And if you're looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit the following website: shiphelp.org/COVID-19. That's shiphelp.org/COVID-19. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again next month, April 14th, for another live coronavirus Q&A event. And you don't want to miss AARP Celebrates You!, kicking off this evening through March 26th. It's a fun-filled weekend of free online events, including celebrity chats, classic movies and more. Visit aarp.org/celebrates for details. We hope you can join us. Thanks so much, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:00:00] Bill Walsh: Hello, I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, please press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:02:43] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:02:48] AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. As we enter a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic, there's reason for optimism as cases and deaths continue to decline, and the country begins to resume a sense of normalcy. But of course, we've been here before, and many older adults remain wary as guidelines loosen and talk of a new variant looms. The need for trustworthy, accurate information and guidance has never been more critical.

[00:03:35] Today, we'll hear from experts about these issues and more. We'll also get an update from Capitol Hill on important legislation affecting older Americans. If you've participated in one of our telephone town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your question live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. And if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, go ahead and post your question in the comments section.

[00:04:17] Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, drop your question in the comments section.

[00:04:37] We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including an infectious disease specialist, AARP's chief executive officer, and an expert on misinformation. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member, or if you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, drop your question in the comments.

[00:05:18] Now I'd like to welcome our guests. First is Taison Bell, M.D. and M.B.A. He is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Virginia. This week, the National Minority Quality Forum selected Dr. Bell as a 40 Under 40 Leaders in health. Welcome to the program, Dr. Bell.

[00:05:44] Taison Bell: [inaudible]

[00:05:44] Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. I'd also like to welcome Jo Ann Jenkins. Jo Ann is the chief executive officer at AARP. Welcome to the program, Jo Ann.

[00:05:54] Jo Ann Jenkins: Thanks, Bill. I'm delighted to be here.

[00:05:56] Bill Walsh: And later we'll be joined by Julio Vaqueiro, a reporter and anchor of the popular Spanish-language program Noticias Telemundo, the Emmy Award-winning newscast on Telemundo. Welcome, Julio.

[00:06:13] Julio Vaqueiro: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be here.

[00:06:14] Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. And as a reminder to our listeners, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time, or you can drop your comments into the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Let's go ahead and get started, Dr. Bell. COVID cases in the U.S. are at an eight-month low, but experts anticipate a rise in infections this spring as the omicron subvariant BA.2 gains traction. What do we know today about BA.2 from its spread in Europe and elsewhere?

[00:06:47] Taison Bell: That's a really good question, Bill. And let me just start by saying that I am getting so tired of the alphabet soup that we're having to go through, both the Greek alphabet and our own. But this new subvariant, so the BA.2 is a subvariant of the original omicron variant. So it's a child of it or a cousin, so to speak. So a lot of similarities, but there are some key differences. One of them is that it does spread a little more easier than the original omicron does. And that was even substantial because we saw the omicron spread even more easily than delta. So it's getting more and more transmissible. It's about 30 percent more transmissible. The other two questions are severity; is it a more or less severe version of omicron. It looks like it's about the same. And if you remember, the original omicron, that severity was a little bit less than delta, but the fact that it spread to so many more people is what made it such a, on a global scale, a severe illness. And then the last part is the erosion that vaccines have against it, because we've seen that the omicron variant, the original one, was able to erode some of that vaccine protection from symptomatic disease despite the fact that severe disease protection holds up pretty well. But that looks like it's about the same too. So what we're seeing in Europe now, they're about three weeks into their rising cases. And what's encouraging is that we're starting to see some of those case rises go down a little bit. So maybe they have hit their peak already, and we'll have to see what it looks like a couple of weeks down and see if that trend continues. But what's really encouraging is that they have not seen a large rise in their hospitalization as a result of the rise in their cases. So, I don't want to presume the same will happen here. There are some differences with some of the Europe populations, they are highly vaccinated compared to us, they have more rates of boosters compared to us, so I don't want to say it'll look about the same, but some encouraging signs here. Now in the U.S., our percentage of BA.2 cases is now about one in four cases. The Northeast is leading that right now, with states like Connecticut and Massachusetts having over 50 percent of their cases being due to BA.2. And so far, I haven't seen a surge in hospitalization. So, very good signs. And we're kind of in a situation where I imagine someone from Florida or Louisiana is used to a similar sort of problem. You have a storm that's off the coast, you're not exactly sure which direction it's going to go, and while you're hoping for the best, you're preparing for the worst. So, you know, in the case of a storm, you make sure you have your flashlight, and you have your batteries, a plan to get out of town if you need to. I would say, do the same for this variant coming. We're not exactly sure what it's going to look like here in the U.S., but there are some things that we can do to make sure that you're safe. So, you know, go to COVIDtest.org and order your free COVID tests. Each person is allowed two sets or two sets of four tests, or dial 1-800-232-0233. Get yourself a high-quality mask. There are N95 masks that are available for free at many pharmacies, and even look into where treatment options would be available if you were to get sick and you have some of those risk factors. So, there are things that we can do to protect ourselves and prepare despite the fact that it looks like, hopefully, we won't see as much of a rise in hospitalizations as we saw with the original omicron.

[00:10:14] Bill Walsh: Right. Well, thanks so much for that. Now, now to be clear, there are two omicron derivatives, is that correct? There's BA.2 and BA.2.2. Are there any significant distinctions, and most importantly, are the vaccines effective against them?

[00:10:30] Taison Bell: Yeah, so the vaccines are effective against severe disease. We've had lots of reporting showing how for symptomatic disease that can wane over time, but when it comes to severe disease — and what we really care about is keeping people out of the hospital, keeping people alive — they do a very good job of that. Now, this BA.2.2 subvariant was this specific case where there is a combination of a virus that had a combination of both the original omicron and the subvariant of BA.2, and they kind of combined. And we'll see more instances of this, but you know, the management should be the same: Make sure you get your booster, have a high-quality mask, and all the other things that we know work to prevent people from getting sick and infected.

[00:11:12] Bill Walsh: Now, Pfizer and Moderna recently requested FDA emergency use authorization for a fourth dose. Citing data from Israel, Pfizer said adults over 65 are vulnerable for severe illness and future variants because of waning immunity. What does the Israeli data show, and how quickly does immunity decrease?

[00:11:34] Taison Bell: Right, another great question. And I've gotten this question from a lot of members in the community. So first, the first thing I just want to say, and just in case there are any listeners who fit this category, there are a group of people in the United States that qualify for a fourth dose, or a second booster, right now. And those are people who have suppressed immune systems, so folks with active cancer on chemotherapy, for instance, certain immunocompromising conditions, or if you're on medications that suppress your immune system, like steroids, these are people who may qualify for a fourth dose already, and if you're wondering about that, you know, talk to your health care provider to make sure. Because you want to get that all ready. Now, when it comes to a fourth dose for the general population, we've seen that a few countries have started to do this already: the U.K., Germany and Israel. This is based on some data that came out of Israel, so two studies, one that looked at health care population. And what they showed was a moderate decrease in your symptomatic disease from COVID with a fourth dose. Now, your protection against severe disease, you know, hospitalization and death, that was still very good despite, you know, people who may have gotten a third or fourth dose, it was very good between the two groups. Now, you can make the argument that for health care workers, symptomatic disease is very important, because we want to have health care workers on the front lines. But when you looked at another population, 60 and above, who were also offered the fourth dose, they saw that the protection from symptomatic disease also was much better from the severe disease to the order of about four times more protection if you got that fourth dose compared to people who have just got three doses. So, four times the protection is very good, but the one thing that was still encouraging was the numbers were overall very small for people who got severe disease, who got a booster, at least one booster. So out of over 1 million people that were studied, people over the age of 60 or above who have received at least one booster, they were comparing if you got a third, if you stayed with a third dose or got a fourth dose, and they only had about 230 or so cases out of 1 million people. So, that's encouraging news that the vaccines still provide very good protection from the severe disease. You still get additional protection with a fourth dose, but it's still very good with a person who's boosted. Now, what that means for us, Pfizer and Moderna have both applied for FDA authorization; Pfizer, I believe for 65 and up, and Moderna asked for authorization for all Americans. I think based on the trends and what we've seen in other countries in Europe, I would anticipate that we would at least approve a fourth dose for those who are 65 and older, yet to be determined for all of these, but specifically for younger people and for health care workers. But I would anticipate it for those who are 65 and older. And what I've told people is regardless of their situation, get all the doses that you qualify for regardless of your situation, because the vaccines are very safe, they're very effective. If you've had omicron, there is a suggestion of protection from this BA.2 variant, but I wouldn't count on that. I would still get that booster. And we'll see in the coming weeks if it'll be authorized.

[00:14:53] Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that, Dr. Bell. Now it's time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Taison Bell. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your questions live. And if you'd like to listen to this program in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:15:20] [Instructions in Spanish]

[00:15:21] Now I'd like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

[00:15:29] Jesse Salinas: I'm glad to be here today, Bill.

[00:15:30] Bill Walsh: All right. Who do we have first on the line?

[00:15:34] Jesse Salinas: Our first call is actually going to be from Facebook. It's Pauline, and she says, "Should we get a second booster if it's been six months or more since our last booster and we're planning to travel by plane in the near future?"

[00:15:46] Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you take that?

[00:15:48] Taison Bell: Good question. So, if there is a fourth dose that's authorized, the timeline is going to be determined by the FDA and the CDC. What we've seen so far is five months is that time window between when you can qualify for another booster shot, so I would anticipate that would be the case. And as far as timing it up with travel, what I would say is when you're eligible for it, go ahead and get it, especially if you are anticipating traveling, because it does take some time for you to develop that protection. So the vaccine, once it goes into your arm, it takes about 10 to 14 days for you to get the benefit of protection from that, from the antibody boost. And so you want to get it ahead of time before you go and travel.

[00:16:33] Bill Walsh: Jesse, who do we have up next?

[00:16:35] Jesse Salinas: Our first caller on the phone today is going to be Vito from Michigan.

[00:16:39] Bill Walsh: Hey, Vito, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:16:43] Vito: Yeah, hi. So, I'm recently diagnosed with cancer, looking at maybe 12 months of chemotherapy ahead, and I'm wondering, is there any data about the best time to get a fourth booster shot? You know, I've heard some stuff about, you know, if you get that fourth booster while you're in chemo, it may not be so effective. But can you give me some ideas around that or thoughts?

[00:17:09] Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you help Vito?

[00:17:12] Taison Bell: Yeah, thanks for the question, Vito, and I certainly wish you well with your treatment. And the advice that I would give to anyone who is high risk, regardless of what they're high risk from, is to get that booster right away. And soon as you qualify for it, go ahead and get it because that risk is ongoing, and we don't want to wait until, you know, some event that we anticipate a higher risk because the risk is already around us. And we're seeing that cases are increasing here in the U.S. BA.2 is making up about one out of every four cases already. We're starting to see an uptick in New York City, and I anticipate we'll see an increase in the coming weeks all across the country. So the best time is now. So I would say, go ahead and get that fourth dose. It seems like you would qualify for it.

[00:17:56] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Bell. Jesse, who's up next?

[00:17:59] Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is going to be Stan in Texas.

[00:18:03] Bill Walsh: Hey, Stan, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:18:08] Stan: Yes, my question is what does the data need to be in order to normalize COVID with everyday life, such as flu and common colds.

[00:18:21] Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, can you take that?

[00:18:23] Taison Bell: Yes, it was a little muffled, but the question I think I heard from Stan was how does the COVID compared to influenza and other respiratory illnesses? So, you know, what we've seen from COVID is that it is more severe than influenza. So across the world, there's about three to five hundred thousand deaths from influenza every year. Of course, we also have a vaccine for influenza as well that I advise everyone to get, and we're still in flu season. But we've had 6 million deaths from COVID over the last two years. So certainly a more severe illness. Part of that is due to the fact that it is more severe, particularly for older individuals to have the disease itself, but it's also much more transmissible than influenza itself. So, you know, for those two reasons, it is a very severe illness and one of the most transmissible respiratory viruses that we've ever seen. Now, if you're vaccinated and boosted, that does bring your risk of having a severe outcome from COVID down substantially, to even below the level you would expect from influenza. So, you know, one of those reasons why you want to make sure that you're protected, that you get all the doses that you're, that are available to you, get vaccinated, and make sure to get boosted.

[00:19:37] Bill Walsh: Great advice. And we're going to take more listener questions shortly, but now I'd like to welcome AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins to talk about how AARP is supporting older adults and the importance of trustworthy COVID education. Welcome, Joann.

[00:19:55] Jo Ann Jenkins: Thank you, Bill.

[00:19:56] Bill Walsh: All right. We are delighted to have you here today. Now, the global pandemic has profound implications for all of us, and reliable, consistent and unbiased information is crucial at a time of uncertainty. What's AARP been doing along these lines?

[00:20:12] Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, let me just say first, I am so proud of all of the work of our team here at AARP and the tens of thousands of volunteers who help us, you know, really carry out our programs. I think first and foremost, what has been so rewarding is the work that we've done through our advocacy work, and the fact that AARP does its best every day to make sure that we are providing trusted, factual information for you to make your decisions. And I think you've, hopefully you've seen that in our publications and our newsletters and our online information that we provide to all of our members and the general public, for that matter. You know, as we've been advocating over these last two years, it's been so important for us to make sure that Congress and the administration understand how important it is, and how powerful your voice and your vote is in making decisions for everyday people all over this country. You know, we've been advocating and at the front line for making sure that Social Security was protected during this last two years. We've been advocating and really making a strong voice, not just inside Washington, but really working with governors all over the country to make sure of the needs of people in nursing homes, that they were able to get that PPE equipment and COVID vaccines and all of the other specialty items that they needed to carry on to make sure our loved ones were safe. You know, we were there advocating to make sure that Medicare allowed telemedicine appointments to be qualified under their Medicare program. You know, and just seeing the impact that all of the folks here at AARP, and hearing your voices all across this country, it makes me proud to be a part of AARP. We know that trusted information, factual information, just to the point is so helpful to all of you to make sure that you make the right decisions. And, you know, the program today with the other leading experts on this call is, you know, point of clarity about, you know, what's going on with COVID, what you guys need to be doing, are thinking about, and how you want to approach your treatment, your vaccine, but making sure that we're presenting both sides of the story, but always advocating for people 50 and older in this country.

[00:22:45] Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that, Jo Ann. You mentioned misinformation, and, you know, during the pandemic, we have arguably had an infodemic as well, with vast amounts of true, untrue and misleading information out there that's really clouded some complex issues. The truth is it's led to unnecessary loss of life and real divisions within our country. How do Americans rise above misinformation and polarization?

[00:23:13] Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, I think what's so important, and I've said this for many years, the erosion of the civil discourse, that we can't sit across from each other and have a decent and common conversation. Whether we agree or not is one thing, but, you know, we ought to be able to have civil conversations. And every day, at AARP, we work to try to bring that voice to the conversation; we try to present people on our tele-town hall meetings, or you know, when we're advocating or we're trying to send out information to all of our members, that we present both sides of the story. And I think that's so important. You know, more than anything, we want you to exercise your right to vote. That is so important. And I tell, when I'm up there advocating and talking to members of Congress, I'm making sure that they know that people who are older in this country are the people who actually elect politicians every day. And so they ought to be listening to our voice and really listening to what it is, the issues that we're concerned around, whether it's Social Security, Medicare, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, which is so important to people's financial security and their health security. And so I think that's what I would say. How do we, how do we keep that civil discourse? How do we have conversations about difficult topics? You know, how do we make sure that people have the information and access to where they vote, the information and background for who they want to vote for? Our goal is to present that information to them, and then for our members to decide for themselves what candidate they think is going to best position them to live longer, healthier lives.

[00:25:04] Bill Walsh: Right. Now, one thing we're keenly aware of here at AARP is that 93 percent of the COVID fatalities were among people 50 and older, and the pandemic really revealed some inequities among older adults, low-income families and people of color. How do these inequities shape AARP’s approach going forward?

[00:25:28] Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, I think what's, you know, the point you made; 93 percent of the [,] people who died were 50 and older. That is so key. And then we saw disproportionately a number of Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Alaskan Indians had disproportionally affected, or they died from COVID, or had less access to the vaccines that they needed. And I think, you know, we are always there for all of our members, but this COVID treatment process, everything that we've been going through these last two years, has really shone a spotlight on where disparities exist and where we ought to pay more attention to make sure that the policies we put in place, the execution of disbursement of vaccines, all of those things take into consideration those who have been underserved through the course of decades. And I think, you know, COVID just brought it to the forefront in a way that we've been talking about for years, but really you couldn't see it firsthand. And I think all of us, unfortunately, now have a story to tell about a loved one who had COVID, whether they died from COVID or whether they overcame it. And so we have to continuously work. And so our work at AARP is going to be steadfast around health security and that financial resilience, and keeping in the back of our minds those who have been disproportionately affected, and trying to find solutions at the national and state and local levels to make sure that it's included in the conversations we have so that we can bring some parity to the situation.

[00:27:21] Bill Walsh: Now, you would, you were just talking about voting a moment ago, and of course, we're in a big election year. It always seems we're in an election year, doesn't it? But as we know, there have been some widespread changes in voting rules and regulations in many states around the country. How is AARP ensuring that older adults have their voices heard and understand how to vote on election day?

[00:27:44] Jo Ann Jenkins: So, let me reiterate again for our listeners: People 50 and older vote in larger voting blocs than any other voting blocs in the country. And so you are ultimately deciding who will be elected, and very important that you get out there and exercise your vote. At AARP, I'm so excited, we're going to be launching our Our Voices Decide campaign around how we educate our members and people 50 and older in this country about what's going on, what's changed in their state so that they know how the laws have changed, where your voting place may have changed. Making sure that we provide factual information on the candidates on the issues that we care about: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, nursing care, that has been so big of an issue in COVID, with so many of us having a loved one in a nursing care facility, and making sure that, you know, we look at how do we address those nursing home needs, and also about how we address in-home care. So many of you are in-home caregivers for a spouse, a friend or a loved one. And so those things are going to be front and center, whether they are a sitting politician, or a member of government, or they’re running for office. We hope to make sure that we share information on all of the candidates to our members, so that they have an opportunity to decide for themselves, you know, who they're going to vote for.

[00:29:18] Bill Walsh: Right, and I understand AARP is going to be printing or publishing state-by-state voter guides so folks can look to see how the rules have changed in their states.

[00:29:27] Jo Ann Jenkins: Absolutely, and you'll be able to go directly to the aarp.org website or your local state office website to be able to get that information on who's up for election, who are the candidates running for each individual office, and where they stand. And so, if you need additional information, by all means, send it to us by Facebook, by chat, whatever way you communicate back with us. I'm always, when I come into my office, and I see the stacks of letters that I hear from AARP members. I know you know how to get in touch with us.

[00:29:59] Bill Walsh: OK. Now, finally, your leadership, Jo Ann, at AARP has given voice to millions and helped people age with dignity and purpose. What fuels your passion, and what gives you hope?

[00:30:12] Jo Ann Jenkins: Well, you know, I think back to, I came to Washington 40 years ago to really be a part of the political process, to really work on issues that I think would change society. And I think, I feel, just if not more committed to being able to do that, I'm so fortunate to be in this role here at AARP. You know, I tell my story all the time that I grew up in lower Alabama; we call it LA, Lower Alabama, but had the opportunity to come to Washington some 40-plus years ago, had the opportunity to work with a number of federal agencies and presidents from both parties during my time here. And just to see the power and the impact and the voice of AARP, and the voice of our members and how we can do good for others across society, it excites me every day. And so I'm glad that we're all back here in the office today to be able to continue that work.

[00:31:15] Bill Walsh: All right, that voice is more important than ever. Thanks so much for being with us today, Jo Ann.

[00:31:20] Jo Ann Jenkins: Thank you.

[00:31:21] Bill Walsh: Now let's turn back to our medical expert, Dr. Taison Bell, of the University of Virginia. Remember, if you'd like to ask a question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad at any time. Dr. Bell, COVID has had a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino communities, who are almost twice as likely to die as white patients were. Why is that, and what can be done to change this?

[00:31:48] Taison Bell: Very good question, Bill. And a lot of this connects to what we refer [to] as the social determinants of health. So a lot of times, you know — and physicians can fall into this trap, too — we think of health as what happens within the walls of a clinic or a hospital. But health really means the circumstance of your life, which includes the air you breathe, the water you drink, the walkable space in your neighborhood, the foods in your grocery stores, your ease in getting access to medicines and health care professionals. These are all things that tie in to your health. And the problem is while now the vast majority of people now would say that Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities deserve equal access to opportunities, our institutions in the structure of society was set up at a time when people, a majority of people did not feel that way in equal opportunity. And this gets to the concept of structural racism. And I don't want to over-generalize because there's no universally shared experience of being white, Black, Hispanic or Indigenous in this country, but there are trends that people from underrepresented communities have a trend toward living in communities that have been deprived of these access to resources. And I can just tell you the story of my growing up. I grew up in a community that was historically designated as a Black neighborhood. It was extremely difficult if you were Black to buy a house in one of the white neighborhoods in my city. And my neighborhood was actually a redlined area, which meant that the FHA, or Federal Housing Authority, did not insure the loans going into that community. Of course, that means that the loans were risky, the rates were higher, and that was an undesirable community. And as a result of that, the appreciation or the value of your home did not increase in those areas to the extent in other areas. And even though redlining was outlawed in 1977, that got passed, persisted, and now the average home in a white neighborhood has gained $200,000 more value than a comparable home in a Black neighborhood. Now, that has more consequences other than just the lack of an appreciation of wealth. That means there's less Black-owned businesses because there's less opportunities to take a loan against your home to start a business or send someone to college. That translates to less investment in the public schools. Less economic opportunities means that businesses are less likely to come into those communities. So, grocery stores and pharmacies and even health care providers are less likely to open practices in those areas. And so in my neighborhood, there were no pharmacies; there are still no private chain pharmacies; there are no grocery stores. I get a lot of our food from a corner store, which doesn't have access to healthier food options. And a lot of these translate ultimately to higher rates of chronic disease — so, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, you know, what have you — and this is a setup for having a severe outcome from COVID-19, and not only COVID, but influenza and many of the other health care issues that Americans suffer from. There are higher rates in these communities. And, you know, how to fix that, you know, first, is acknowledging what the problem is and tackling it head-on. I think smart policies like the Affordable Care Act that closed the insurance gap, that certainly helped, but I just laid out that the problem is way broader than just access to health care. I think there needs to be targeted investment in programs to reverse the economic and social harm that has happened in these communities before we can begin to start to reverse what we're seeing.

[00:35:19] Bill Walsh: Thanks so much for that. It really does have a ripple effect, doesn't it? And so let me follow up. You know, there's a widely held assumption that technology and data will close the gap and improve health care regardless of race or economic background, but that didn't happen during the pandemic. In fact, a recent analysis suggests the opposite. Bias data led to worse care for people of color. What's going on here, and what happened?

[00:35:46] Taison Bell: I'm glad you brought that up because this was a large hope of moving forward in the future. And, you know, the good thing I can say for myself is that, you know, we still have job security because these algorithms are still not doing what they were supposed to do. But on a serious note, the issue primarily is the fact that when you give bias data or training to these models, they are going to continue to produce the outcomes that are limited by your own bias. And I can give you an example: There's a push toward these autonomous driving vehicles that you can kind of sit in and the car will drive itself. And you, as a human team, train that car and the computer to drive safely. And you can put all the time in the world to do that and make it safe and make a good product, but if you take that car from the United States and take it to London, where people drive on the left side of the road, that car is going to have problems because of the biases that we put into the training algorithm. And likewise, if we have biases in how we interpret data, that's going to bear out in these algorithms and artificial intelligence. I actually do work with a computer science team, and one of the things they always say is, when you put garbage in, you get garbage out, which means that the data that you use to train these algorithms in artificial intelligence needs to be very good. And one of the issues with data collection is that it's often incomplete, so age and sex are the most reliable data that we collect, but past that, it's very spotty, including socioeconomic status and race and ethnicity, and the data needs to come from multiple different sources, and not even just from health care databases. It's hard enough to get consistent information from health care databases. There's many different, we don't have a national health care system, so there's not one database like in Israel, there's only two. We have multiple. So we need to, a lot more work needs to go into getting these sorts of solutions ready for prime time.

[00:37:41] Bill Walsh: Right, thanks so much for that. Now it's time to address more of your questions about the coronavirus pandemic with Dr. Taison Bell. As a reminder, press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member to share your question live. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

[00:38:01] Jesse Salinas: Our next caller is going to be Elizabeth from Nevada.

[00:38:04] Bill Walsh: Hey, Elizabeth, welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:38:10] Elizabeth: Yes, can you hear me?

[00:38:12] Bill Walsh: I can. Go ahead with your question.

[00:38:15] Elizabeth: OK, I'm curious. I still feel that there is a substantial number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S., and I'm curious as far as what population is actually dying from this disease. And also, I've experienced a substantial or a significant health care worker shortage. I've worked in health care for many years and know there's always been a shortage, just exacerbated substantially. And it's very, very difficult to get an appointment with your physician. And I'm curious what treatments are available for COVID. Are they actually treating people, because it seems like there's varying information on that? Like, sometimes they say there's a shortage of treatments, and then other times they say, well, it's available here, there and everywhere. But I'm curious.

[00:39:10] Bill Walsh: OK, Elizabeth. Thanks. OK, well, two great questions there. Dr. Bell, can you help? I mean, she makes a very good point. You know, with all of the loosened restrictions regarding social distancing and masking, it's easy to forget that more than a thousand people a day are dying in the United States.

[00:39:29] Taison Bell: That's right, and that's a metric that I always come back to. You know, this is an improvement actually over our highs. But that's still an unacceptable high number of people that are dying from COVID. And age does remain one of the strongest risk factors. So, 74 percent of the people who die in his country have been people who are 65 and older, and that's part of the reason why you see, you know, seniors stepping up to the plate and getting vaccinated and boosted. The highest rates of vaccination are people in this forum. So, but that remains to be one of the strongest risk factors. And that's why it's so important to protect yourself and get vaccinated and boosted. And I'm glad she brought up the issue about health care scarcity and the health care workforce. You know, I had a friend who made an analogy that going through COVID in a COVID surge is like going through a war, in that, you know, the conflict may end at some point where you're going to have scars from that conflict that takes years to heal, even if it does heal. And I feel like the health care workforce is in that state where we're deeply scarred. We're not out of the woods by any means, but a lot of people have just decided that it's time for them to move on to something else or retire early or go into another field. And we're taking losses as a result of these repeated surges. And so I'm not surprised, unfortunately, that people are having issues getting appointments, and if we're in a surge situation, I expect that to be even worse. That some place at that, that cancel elective procedures, for instances. So, you know, we have to do some work to try to make sure that health care workers are healthy mentally and physically, and able to stay in the workforce and recruit more people in. But these are going to be, you know, some of the lingering effects of COVID once we enter that endemic phase.

[00:41:11] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Bell. Jesse, let's go back to the line. Who do we have next?

[00:41:17] Jesse Salinas: Our next question is going to be from Nancy on Facebook, and she asks, "What work has been done to help people with long COVID?" She's having it currently. She's having both memory and heart issues.

[00:41:27] Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, long COVID is something we've heard a lot about, but I don't think we know a lot about. What can you tell us?

[00:41:33] Taison Bell: Yeah, I'm glad for the question because long COVID is, again, we talked about the lingering effects of COVID-19. I think this will be one of the other lasting legacies of COVID, unfortunately. We're doing a lot of research now to try to clarify exactly what long COVID is. It has very different flavors depending on the person, but it ranges from, you know, many different sorts of side effects, ranging from persistent loss of taste and smell, cognitive issues. Some people have lung issues resolving and they can't resume their usual activities. So these are all things that have been connected to the long COVID. Now, there's, the research studies that are going on are recruiting patients to try to clarify exactly what disease there is, but this is something that we're learning about in real time as the disease goes on. And so I imagine that we'll learn more and more over time and hopefully learn some more about the treatments. The good thing that we know is that vaccination and boosting does lower that risk of long COVID along with some of the other lasting effects of it. So, another reason to do that, but, you know, I would say for people who are suffering from long COVID that you're certainly, you're not unseen, you're not alone, and to, you know, keep speaking with your medical providers about what's, what new is out there, potential therapeutics or research trials.

[00:42:53] Bill Walsh: OK, Dr. Bell, thank you so much. And as a reminder to our listeners and viewers, to ask your question, go ahead and press *3 on your telephone keypad to get into the queue, and if you're on Facebook or YouTube, go ahead and drop it into the comments section. We're going to take more of your live questions shortly, but before we do, I want to bring in Nancy LeaMond. Nancy is the executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer at AARP. Welcome, Nancy.

[00:43:23] Nancy LeaMond: Hi, Bill. Delighted to be here.

[00:43:25] Bill Walsh: All right, we're delighted to have you. I would like to take a few minutes to update our listeners about how AARP is fighting for them on issues they care about the most. Nancy, what's the latest news from Capitol Hill on the advocacy front?

[00:43:41] Nancy LeaMond: Lowering the cost of prescription drugs continues to be a major focus for AARP, both in Washington and in state capitals across the country. Just in January, prices went up yet again on 75 percent of the most prescribed drugs in Medicare. And right now, there's a bill in Congress that would finally let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices and would cap out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare beneficiaries. We have never been this close to major prescription drug reform. More than 80 percent of voters across all political parties support the reforms in this bill, and our elected leaders need to keep their promise to Americans and lower those prescription drug prices now.

[00:44:27] Bill Walsh: What are the specific changes that AARP is fighting for?

[00:44:33] Nancy LeaMond: AARP supports four major policies in the bill that's before Congress right now that will make a huge difference for seniors struggling to afford their medications. First, Medicare must be able to negotiate the price of some prescription drugs. Americans today pay three times more than what people in other countries pay for the exact same drugs, and it's inexcusable. Second, the bill would set a $2,000 per year cap on out-of-pocket drug expenses for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. This would provide significant financial relief to people who take medications that can cost tens of thousands of dollars every single year. Third, the bill would penalize companies that increase drug prices faster than the rate of inflation. And fourth, the bill would cap what people pay out of pocket for insulin at $35 per month.

[00:45:31] Bill Walsh: It'd be tremendous benefits. Now, as the pandemic rages on into its third year, can you tell us how AARP has approached advocacy during this time?

[00:45:45] Nancy LeaMond: I want to repeat the statistic mentioned earlier that is staggering, but shows why this work is so important. The United States has now seen nearly 1 million COVID deaths. Ninety-three percent of these deaths — 93 percent — have been among those aged 50 and older. That means that in the past two years, we've lost nearly 900,000 older Americans to this virus: parents and grandparents, community members and friends. It's heartbreaking, and it's unacceptable. Our country needs to do better. And this is why we fight for the needs of older Americans every single day. Throughout the pandemic, through two different administrations and many congressional bills, AARP has fought hard to protect older adults and will continue to be at the forefront of helping people age safely with independence and dignity.

[00:46:39] Bill Walsh: Now, Nancy, nursing home residents have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. What kinds of changes are we creating in America's nursing homes?

[00:46:47] Nancy LeaMond: Well, America needs to reform its long-term health care system; we know that. The pandemic has put a spotlight on existing health and safety issues. Nursing home residents and staff make up 1 percent of the population but have accounted for around 23 percent of COVID deaths. This is a national disgrace. AARP has been leading the fight, and the good news is we're beginning to see reforms that will improve nursing home quality, safety and care. We fought for increased transparency about illnesses and deaths, and improved access for visitation, vaccines and testing, and more support for family caregivers. Now we're urging the federal government to take steps to ensure minimum staffing standards and hold nursing homes accountable if they aren't providing quality care. And also, if you have a loved one in a nursing home today, it's worth noting that one in three nursing home residents still has not received their COVID booster. Please don't take for granted that your family member has received theirs. Call and make sure they get their booster.

[00:48:02] Bill Walsh: All right, Nancy, thank you so much for that update. Now, we've gotten a lot of good information today about COVID, but COVID misinformation continues to flourish. In fact, it has undermined public health efforts to end the pandemic. We've introduced a segment we call Four-Minute Fact Check, where we ask experts from MediaWise, a media literacy program that helps seniors spot misinformation, to help debunk misleading claims and understand why misinformation is so problematic. Today I'd like to welcome Julio Vaqueiro, a reporter and anchor of Noticias Telemundo. He's a news ambassador for MediaWise en Español, a program that educates Spanish speakers over 50. Thank you for joining us today, Julio.

[00:48:53] Julio Vaqueiro: Thank you very much, Bill. I'm happy to be here.

[00:48:55] Bill Walsh: All right, we're happy to have you. And Julio, how does misinformation compete with or undermine the work of journalists?

[00:49:03] Julio Vaqueiro: So, I think journalism is more important now than ever, it's essential for the survival of democracy, it's vital for the well-being of society as a whole, and now with so much noise around us and with so much misinformation, it is more important than ever. It is true that it's more challenging to do our job because misinformation is not only about spreading falsehoods. It's also about making people doubt about the facts to question the truth. And that's why we have to be impeccable in what we do. We have to take extra care on double checking the facts and double-checking the sources so that people keep on trusting real journalism in the long run.

[00:49:45] Bill Walsh: All right, well, there are a lot of efforts out there to refute bad or intentionally misleading information. Are they working?

[00:49:56] Julio Vaqueiro: Well, I hope they are. I mean, as you said, a lot of work is being done right now, especially in English. And I think we have to work more on this for the Spanish-speaker audience. But, for example, at Noticias Telemundo, we joined efforts with the Poynter Institute and MediaWise, and we launched MediaWise en Español. So, what we're doing is offering workshops and videos online and YouTube, and you can also find them in WhatsApp if you ask for them, and in these videos, we try to teach people how to spot falsehoods and how to find misinformation, and how to know if something they find online, it's true or it's false, so that we make people ask themselves if they should share information or not. And so far, it's been working with, got a good reception from the audience. So, I think we keep on working and I hope we keep on doing these efforts.

[00:50:51] Bill Walsh: You were recently reporting from one of the hot spots on the planet, the Poland-Ukraine border. One link between the invasion of Ukraine and COVID is disinformation that originates with Russia. How does Russia employ disinformation as a weapon? And what is the benefit to Russia to spread COVID disinformation?

[00:51:16] Julio Vaqueiro: Yeah, so we went to the border between Portland and Ukraine precisely because we wanted to see the problem and the humanitarian crisis firsthand. And that's why it's so important to have reporters on the ground looking at what's happening and sharing what they see. That's the only way to know exactly what's going on in the Ukraine, because to be honest, at war times, both sides use propaganda. Now, when it comes to misinformation, the mechanisms that Russians use and that the whole infrastructure that they have to spread misinformation is very sophisticated, and we started, during the 2020 campaign, we've seen it during this COVID pandemic, and what they are trying to do, and U.S. officials have said it clearly, is that they are trying to threaten stability, and they are trying to divide the American public so that the domestic issues in America are big enough so that the government has no time to focus on international issues. So that's the goal number one. That's why we have to be very careful on the sources we get the information from, and the news from.

[00:52:27] Bill Walsh: Experts say that social media sites are delayed or ignoring large amounts of misinformation in Spanish-language sites. And this has made matters worse, because we know the Hispanic/Latino communities heavily use social media for news. Are social media sites taking Hispanic/Latino audiences for granted?

[00:52:54] Julio Vaqueiro: Well, I'm not sure if they're taking it for granted, but I would say this: Social media platforms do need to work a lot on eliminating falsehoods and misinformation in Spanish from their platforms. They have a lot of work to do to serve the Hispanic community in a better way. It's true that Latinos use these social platforms more than other groups; many service show that. However, they're not the only group that receive news and get their news from social media, but they do use Facebook and WhatsApp a lot. And they do it because that's a way to get in touch with family members in other countries and in other parts of the United States. So, and the thing is that they're sharing this information in Spanish or in Spanglish, and the algorithm of social media is not ready to spot that misinformation in other languages. So that's where the work should be focused on, I believe, attending the Spanish information and Spanish misinformation and Spanglish misinformation.

[00:54:00] Bill Walsh: OK, Julio Vaqueiro, thank you so much for that, and thank you for your excellent work in this area. I'd like to bring in Dr. Bell again to address some of the latest COVID misinformation. Dr. Bell, I'm going to mention a handful of claims about COVID and vaccines that we've seen recently. Can you quickly address each one and tell us whether they are true or false? Let's start with one we've heard quite a bit, that COVID vaccines are experimental. True or false?

[00:54:30] Taison Bell: That is false. They are fully FDA approved; 250 million people have received doses. This is no experiment. It's about as sure that they work as a ball that you toss in the air is going to come back down to earth.

[00:54:40] Bill Walsh: OK. Now, another one we've heard is that COVID vaccines can alter your DNA. True or false?

[00:54:47] Taison Bell: That's also false. So, your cells protect your DNA in a special compartment within your cell, and the vaccine does not even interact with that compartment. So it does not even come into contact with your DNA, much less change it.

[00:54:59] Bill Walsh: Now, despite news to the contrary, there's still information out there that says vaccines aren't effective. True or false.

[00:55:08] Taison Bell: False. They're incredibly effective. They're one of the most successful vaccines that we've ever, that we've ever had. And they're just, they're great. So false.

[00:55:17] Bill Walsh: Now, here's one that's lingered for quite some time: Masks don't work to protect you against the coronavirus. True or false.

[00:55:25] Taison Bell: That is false. The science is clear that masks do work, but especially with omicron, the type of mask that you wear matters, and so what I tell people is to wear a high-quality mask, at least a surgical or medical grade. And then if you have a, if you really want to protect yourself, wear an N95.

[00:55:39] Bill Walsh: OK. And here's one that's been particularly stubborn. We hear that vaccines cause heart issues. True or false.

[00:55:47] Taison Bell: So, this was a, this came up in the context of heart inflammation, and there were studies that looked at heart inflammation from the vaccine. But those have largely been debunked. And so their most recent study looked at 192 million people, over half of the people in our country who've received the vaccine, and we have something like 1,500 cases of heart inflammation. Now, I'll remind you that COVID itself causes heart inflammation at a much higher rate. So yeah, I'm being very serious about this, Bill: You are more likely to be trampled by a cow than you are to have an issue from heart inflammation from the vaccine.

[00:56:19] Bill Walsh: OK. Dr. Bell and Julio Vaqueiro, thank you so much for that information. Dr. Bell, let me ask you another question that we've seen recently. Now recent analyses using data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have identified a concerning list of long-term complications from COVID, including increased incidents of heart disease, stroke and blood clots. And this week, a study in the medical journal The Lancet, using the veteran data, indicates a significant increased risk for diabetes following infection. Given these risks, if you've had COVID, should you visit your primary care physician more frequently in the year to come?

[00:57:00] Taison Bell: Well, I think the general advice is to make sure that you plug in with primary care in general, because we have data showing that so many people have neglected their primary care in the midst of the pandemic, especially early on in the pandemic. But, Bill, this is one of these issues that I think we're going to learn more about as time goes on, because as we think of diabetes as a multi-organ disease, we need to start thinking about COVID the same, as a multi-organ disease that causes many different problems in different organ systems. Now, this VA study that you mentioned was very interesting. Now, the VA is a different population than the average American, but they did find that there were similarities across many different subsets. So, among women veterans compared to men, racial minorities compared to white veterans, people of different age, people of different body mass index, for instance, they all had this phenomenon of a higher chance developing diabetes after COVID. And so what this really lets us know is that we need to think about this as a complex disease, and the other thing to point out that I found was fascinating in this study, the risk was actually higher if you had more severe disease. So if you were hospitalized, your risk was three times more as opposed to 46 percent more. If you were in the ICU, the most severe cases, you were five times more likely to have diabetes develop as opposed to some who weren't as sick. And so again, this underscores the importance of trying to prevent severe disease. Not only does it keep you out of the hospital, out of the ICU, but it looks like it might decrease your chances of developing these other complications down the road.

[00:58:36] Bill Walsh: OK, very good. Now, a quick follow-up to that: We've seen some additional items in the news. just in the last few days actually. This week Moderna shared that it anticipates a fourth booster this fall combined with vaccines for seasonal respiratory viruses like the flu. And they're seeking FDA approval of a pediatric low dose for very young children. What should our listeners and viewers know about this news?

[00:59:05] Taison Bell: Well, I think, you know, news like this is very encouraging. I have a 4-year-old who's at home, and like many other parents of young children, I have just been waiting for the day where I can get her vaccinated and make sure that she's protected. Luckily, we know that very young people are unlikely to have severe disease, but it does happen, and vaccines are very safe and effective. So if that gets authorized, you know, she'll be first in line to try to get vaccinated. And when it comes to boosters and what the future holds, you know, one of the things that really I've learned to not try to do, in the course of the pandemic, it's predict the future, because so many people just get it wrong. So there's a chance that we may have to have repeated boosters, but I'm not exactly sold on that idea just yet, just because we've seen how well the vaccines protect from severe COVID and hospitalization and death. And there'll get a point where we'll have to decide as a country, how aggressive we want to act toward trying to prevent symptomatic disease, because having, you know, low-risk COVID, you know, we have a cough and maybe a fever, but you're overall OK, is very different than landing in the hospital, and we can largely prevent those severe outcomes. That metric might shift in terms of how aggressively we go after it. But as far as, you know, are we going to need an annual shot? I'm not sure at this point.

[01:00:26] Bill Walsh: Thank you for that perspective, and we're going to have you back on the program to give us an update. This has been a really informative discussion. Thanks to all of our panelists for answering our questions today. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers and listeners, for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of the Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus starting tomorrow, March 25th. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. And if you're looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit the following website: shiphelp.org/COVID-19. That's shiphelp.org/COVID-19. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again next month, April 14th, for another live coronavirus Q&A event. And you don't want to miss AARP Celebrates You!, kicking off this evening through March 26th. It's a fun-filled weekend of free online events, including celebrity chats, classic movies and more. Visit aarp.org/celebrates for details. We hope you can join us. Thanks so much, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Bill Walsh: Hola, soy Bill Walsh, vicepresidente de AARP, y quiero darles la bienvenida a este importante debate sobre el coronavirus. Antes de comenzar, si desean escuchar esta teleasamblea en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

Bill Walsh: AARP, una organización con membresía, sin fines de lucro y sin afiliación política, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores de Estados Unidos durante más de 60 años. Ante la pandemia mundial de coronavirus, AARP brinda información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan.

A medida que ingresamos a una nueva fase de la pandemia de coronavirus, hay motivos para el optimismo a medida que los casos y las muertes continúan disminuyendo y el país comienza a recuperar una sensación de normalidad. Pero, por supuesto, ya hemos pasado por esto, y muchos adultos mayores siguen siendo cautelosos a medida que las pautas se relajan y se habla de una nueva variante. La necesidad de información y orientación confiables y precisas nunca ha sido más crítica.

Hoy escucharemos a expertos hablar sobre estos temas y otros. También recibiremos una actualización del Congreso sobre una legislación importante que afecta a los adultos mayores del país. Si ya participaron en alguna de nuestras teleasambleas, saben que esto es similar a un programa de entrevistas de radio y tienen la oportunidad de hacer su pregunta en vivo.

Para aquellos de ustedes que se unan a nosotros por teléfono, si desean hacer una pregunta sobre la pandemia de coronavirus, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y su pregunta y los ubicará en turno para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Y si se están conectando a través de Facebook o YouTube, publiquen su pregunta en la sección de comentarios.

Hola, si recién llegan, soy Bill Walsh de AARP y quiero darles la bienvenida a este importante debate sobre la pandemia mundial de coronavirus. Estaremos hablando con los principales expertos y respondiendo sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3. Y si participan por medio de Facebook o YouTube, dejen su pregunta en la sección de comentarios.

Hoy nos acompañarán unos invitados destacados, incluido un especialista en enfermedades infecciosas, la directora ejecutiva de AARP y un experto en el tema de desinformación. También nos acompañará mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, quien ayudará a facilitar sus llamadas. Este evento está siendo grabado y podrán acceder a la grabación en aarp.org/coronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos. Nuevamente, para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP. Si se comunican por medio de Facebook o YouTube, dejen su pregunta en los comentarios.

Ahora, me gustaría dar la bienvenida a nuestros invitados. Primero está Taison Bell, doctor en Medicina y con posgrado en Administración. Es profesor adjunto de Medicina en la División de Enfermedades Infecciosas de University of Virginia. Esta semana, el National Minority Quality Forum seleccionó al Dr. Bell como uno de los 40 líderes en el campo de la salud de menores de 40 años. Bienvenido al programa, Dr. Bell.

Taison Bell: Gracias por recibirme.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, estamos encantados de tenerlo. También quiero dar la bienvenida a Jo Ann Jenkins. Jo Ann es directora ejecutiva de AARP. Bienvenida al programa, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Gracias, Bill. Estoy encantada de estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Y más tarde se unirá Julio Vaqueiro, reportero y presentador del popular programa en español Noticias Telemundo, el noticiero ganador del Premio Emmy en Telemundo. Bienvenido, Julio.

Julio Vaqueiro: Muchas gracias. Estoy feliz de estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, estamos encantados de tenerlo. Y como recordatorio para nuestros oyentes, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono en cualquier momento. También pueden dejar sus comentarios en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube. Comencemos, Dr. Bell. Los casos de COVID-19 en el país están bajando desde hace ocho meses. Pero los expertos anticipan un aumento en las infecciones esta primavera a medida que la subvariante BA.2 de ómicron gana terreno. ¿Qué sabemos hoy sobre BA.2 a partir de su difusión en Europa y otros lugares?

Taison Bell: Esa es una muy buena pregunta, Bill. Y permítanme comenzar diciendo que me estoy cansando tanto de la sopa de letras por la que tenemos que pasar tanto del alfabeto griego como el nuestro. Pero esta nueva variante secundaria, es decir, la BA.2 es una variante secundaria de la variante ómicron original. Así que es un “hijo” de ella o un “primo”, por así decirlo. Así que tienen muchas similitudes, pero hay algunas diferencias clave.

Una de ellas es que se propaga un poco más fácilmente que la ómicron original. Y eso incluso fue sustancial porque vimos que ómicron se propagó aún más fácilmente que la variante delta, por lo que se está volviendo cada vez más transmisible. Es aproximadamente un 30% más transmisible. Las otras dos preguntas son la gravedad, ¿es más o menos grave que la ómicron original? Parece que se trata de lo mismo. Y si recuerdan la ómicron original, esa gravedad era un poco menor que la de la delta. Pero el hecho de que se propague a muchas más personas fue la convirtió en una enfermedad tan grave a escala global.

Y luego, la última parte es la amenaza de erosión que tienen las vacunas contra ella, porque hemos visto que la variante ómicron, la original, pudo erosionar parte de la protección de la vacuna contra la enfermedad sintomática a pesar de que la protección contra la enfermedad grave se mantiene bastante bien. Pero parece que es casi lo mismo también. Lo que estamos viendo ahora en Europa es que llevan aproximadamente tres semanas de casos en aumento. Y lo que es alentador es que estamos empezando a ver que algunos de esos aumentos disminuyen un poco. Así que tal vez ya hayan alcanzado su punto máximo. Y tendremos que ver cómo se ve dentro de un par de semanas para ver si esa tendencia continúa.

Pero lo que es realmente alentador es que no han visto un gran aumento de hospitalizaciones como resultado del aumento de casos. Así que no quiero suponer que aquí sucederá lo mismo, hay algunas diferencias con algunas de las poblaciones de Europa: tienen un mayor índice de vacunación en comparación con nosotros, y tienen un mayor índice de refuerzos en comparación con nosotros. Así que no quiero decir que se verá igual, pero hay algunas señales alentadoras.

Ahora, en Estados Unidos, nuestro porcentaje de casos de BA.2 es de aproximadamente uno de cada cuatro casos. El noreste está liderando en este momento, con estados como Connecticut y Massachusetts con más del 50% de sus casos debido a BA.2, y hasta ahora no he visto un aumento en las hospitalizaciones, así que son muy buenas señales.

Y estamos en una situación en la que me imagino que alguien de Florida o Luisiana está acostumbrado a un tipo de problema similar. Si hay una tormenta en la costa, no está exactamente seguro de en qué dirección irá. Y si bien espera lo mejor, se prepara para lo peor. Así que ya sabe, en caso de tormenta, se asegura de tener una linterna y pilas, un plan para salir de la ciudad si es necesario. Diría que hagan lo mismo para esta variante que viene.

No estamos exactamente seguros de cómo será la situación aquí en el país, pero hay algunas cosas que podemos hacer para asegurarnos de que estén a salvo. Así que ya saben, visiten covidtest.org y soliciten sus pruebas de COVID-19 gratuitas. Cada persona puede recibir dos juegos de cuatro pruebas, o marquen 1-800-232-0233. Consigan una mascarilla de buena calidad.

Las mascarillas N95 están disponibles de forma gratuita en muchas farmacias, e incluso averigüen dónde estarán disponibles las opciones de tratamiento si uno se enferma y tiene algunos de esos factores de riesgo. Entonces, hay cosas que podemos hacer para protegernos y prepararnos, a pesar de que parece que, con suerte, no veremos un aumento tan grande en las hospitalizaciones como vimos con la ómicron original.

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo. Bueno, muchas gracias por eso. Ahora, para que quede claro, hay dos derivados de ómicron, ¿es correcto? Hay BA.2 y BA.2.2. ¿Hay distinciones significativas? Y lo más importante, ¿las vacunas son eficaces contra ellas?

Taison Bell: Sí, las vacunas son eficaces contra enfermedades graves. Hemos tenido muchos informes que demuestran cómo la enfermedad sintomática puede disminuir con el tiempo. Pero cuando se trata de enfermedades graves, y lo que realmente nos importa, que es mantener a las personas fuera del hospital y mantenerlas vivas, hacen un muy buen trabajo.

Ahora, esta subvariante BA.2.2 fue este caso específico en el que hay una combinación de un virus que tenía una combinación tanto de ómicron original como de la subvariante BA.2, y de alguna manera se combinaron. Y veremos más casos como este, pero ya sabe, el procedimiento debería ser la mismo: asegúrense de darse el refuerzo, usar una mascarilla de alta calidad y todas las demás cosas que sabemos que surten efecto para evitar que las personas se enfermen y se infecten.

Bill Walsh: Ahora, Pfizer y Moderna solicitaron recientemente la autorización de uso de emergencia de la FDA para una cuarta dosis. Pfizer citó datos de Israel y dijo que los adultos mayores de 65 años son vulnerables a enfermedades graves y variantes futuras debido a la disminución de la inmunidad. ¿Qué demuestran realmente estos datos? ¿Y qué tan rápido disminuye la inmunidad?

Taison Bell: Cierto, otra gran pregunta. Y he recibido esta pregunta de muchos miembros de la comunidad. Lo primero que quiero decir, y por si acaso hay oyentes que caen en esta categoría, es que hay un grupo de personas en Estados Unidos que pueden recibir una cuarta dosis o un segundo refuerzo en este momento. Y esas son personas que tienen el sistema inmunitario suprimido.

Entonces, las personas con cáncer activo en quimioterapia, por ejemplo, ciertas afecciones inmunocomprometidas, o si están tomando medicamentos que inhiben su sistema inmunitario como esteroides, estas son personas que ya pueden recibir la cuarta dosis. Y si se están preguntando acerca de eso, hablen con su proveedor de atención médica para averiguar si deben recibirla. Ahora, cuando se trata de una cuarta dosis para la población general, hemos visto que algunos países ya han comenzado a administrarla, como el Reino Unido, Alemania e Israel. Esto se basa en algunos datos que salieron de Israel.

Hay dos estudios, uno que analizó la población de atención médica. Y lo que mostraron fue una disminución moderada de la enfermedad sintomática de COVID-19 con la cuarta dosis. Ahora, su protección contra enfermedades graves, hospitalización y muerte, seguía siendo muy buena. A pesar de que la gente pudo haber recibido una tercera o cuarta dosis, fue muy buena entre los dos grupos. Ahora, se puede argumentar que para los trabajadores de la salud, la enfermedad sintomática es muy importante porque queremos tener trabajadores de la salud en primera línea.

Pero cuando observamos otra población de 60 años o más a quienes también se les ofreció la cuarta dosis, vieron que la protección contra la enfermedad sintomática también era mucho mejor. Y en cuanto a la enfermedad grave, hablamos de una protección cuatro veces mayor si uno recibe esa cuarta dosis en comparación con las personas que solo recibieron tres dosis. Así que una protección cuatro veces mayor es muy buena.

Pero lo que sí seguía siendo alentador era que, en general, el número de personas que contrajeron una enfermedad grave habiendo recibido al menos un refuerzo, era muy bajo. Entonces, de más de un millón de personas que se estudiaron, personas mayores de 60 años, que recibieron al menos un refuerzo, compararon si se quedaron con una tercera dosis o si recibieron una cuarta dosis, y solo había alrededor de 230 casos o más por cada millón de personas.

Por lo tanto, es una noticia alentadora que las vacunas sigan proporcionando una muy buena protección contra la enfermedad grave. Aún se obtiene protección adicional con una cuarta dosis, pero aún es muy bueno si la persona recibe un refuerzo. Ahora, lo que eso significa para nosotros, es que Pfizer y Moderna solicitaron la autorización de la FDA. Pfizer, creo, para mayores de 65 años y Moderna solicitó la autorización para todas las personas en el país.

Creo que, basándonos en las tendencias y en lo que hemos visto en otros países de Europa, anticiparía que al menos aprobaríamos una cuarta dosis para los mayores de 65 años, aún por determinar para todos ellos, pero específicamente para los más jóvenes y para los trabajadores de la salud. Pero lo anticiparía para los que tienen 65 años o más.

Y lo que le he dicho a la gente es que, independientemente de su situación, reciban todas las dosis para las que califican, porque las vacunas son muy seguras. Son muy eficaces. Si han tenido ómicron, hay una sospecha de que protege de esta variante BA.2, pero no contaría con eso. Aún así, recomendaría obtener el refuerzo, y veremos en las próximas semanas si se autoriza.

Bill Walsh: Bien. Muchas gracias por eso Dr. Bell. Ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con el Dr. Taison Bell. Como recordatorio, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP para compartir sus preguntas en vivo. Y si desean escuchar este programa en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

Bill Walsh: Ahora, me gustaría invitar a mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, para ayudar a facilitar sus llamadas. Bienvenido, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: Me alegro de estar aquí hoy, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, ¿a quién tenemos primero en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra primera llamada en realidad será de Facebook, es de Pauline, quien dice: "¿Deberíamos recibir un segundo refuerzo si han pasado seis meses o más desde nuestro último refuerzo y planeamos viajar en avión en el futuro cercano?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, ¿puede responder eso?

Taison Bell: Buena pregunta. Si se autoriza una cuarta dosis, la FDA y los CDC determinarán el cronograma. Lo que hemos visto hasta ahora es que cinco meses es el período entre el momento en que uno puede recibir otra vacuna de refuerzo. Así que anticiparía que ese sería el caso. Y en cuanto a programarlo con el viaje, lo que diría es que cuando puedan recibir la vacuna, vayan y consíganla, especialmente si tienen previsto viajar, porque lleva algo de tiempo adquirir esa protección. Es decir, una vez que la vacuna entra en el brazo, toma aproximadamente de 10 a 14 días obtener el beneficio de la protección de los refuerzos de anticuerpos. Por lo tanto, es mejor recibirla con anticipación al viaje.

Bill Walsh: Jessie, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra primera llamada telefónica hoy será Vito, de Míchigan.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Vito, bienvenido al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Vito: Si. Hola. Recientemente me han diagnosticado cáncer, tendré quizás 12 meses de quimioterapia por delante. Y me pregunto, ¿hay algún dato sobre el mejor momento para recibir una cuarta dosis de refuerzo? He oído algunas cosas, como que si recibe el cuarto refuerzo mientras está en quimioterapia, puede que no sea tan eficaz. Pero, ¿pueden darme algunas ideas al respecto, u opiniones?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, ¿puede ayudar a Vito?

Taison Bell: Sí, gracias por la pregunta, Vito. Y ciertamente le deseo lo mejor con su tratamiento, y el consejo que le daría a cualquier persona que sea de alto riesgo, más allá de por qué lo es, es que reciba ese refuerzo de inmediato. Y tan pronto como pueda hacerlo, que vaya y lo haga, porque ese riesgo está presente. Y no queremos esperar algún evento particular para anticipar un mayor riesgo, porque el riesgo ya está a nuestro alrededor.

Y estamos viendo que los casos están aumentando aquí en EE.UU., la BA.2 ya representa aproximadamente uno de cada cuatro casos. Estamos empezando a ver un repunte en la ciudad de Nueva York, y anticipo que veremos un aumento en las próximas semanas en todo el país. Entonces, el mejor momento es ahora, así que le diría que reciba la cuarta dosis, ya que parece que tendría derecho a hacerlo.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Muchas gracias, Dr. Bell. Jesse, ¿quién es el siguiente?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada será de Stan, en Texas.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Stan, bienvenido a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Stan: Sí, mi pregunta es, ¿cuáles deben ser los datos para normalizar la COVID-19 con la vida cotidiana, como con la gripe y los resfriados comunes?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, ¿puede responder eso?

Taison Bell: Sí, no se escuchó bien. Pero la pregunta que creo que escuché de Stan fue cómo se compara la COVID-19 con la influenza y otras enfermedades respiratorias. Lo que hemos visto de la COVID-19 es que es más grave que la influenza. En todo el mundo, hay entre tres y 500,000 muertes por influenza cada año. Por supuesto, también tenemos una vacuna contra la influenza que les aconsejo a todos que reciban, y todavía estamos en la temporada de influenza.

Pero hemos tenido 6 millones de muertes por COVID-19 en los últimos dos años. Así que, ciertamente es una enfermedad más grave. Ahora, parte de eso se debe al hecho de que es más grave, en particular para las personas mayores, tener la enfermedad en sí, pero también es mucho más transmisible que la influenza. Entonces, por esas dos razones, es una enfermedad muy grave y uno de los virus respiratorios más contagiosos que jamás hayamos visto.

Ahora, si uno está vacunado y recibió el refuerzo, eso reduce sustancialmente el riesgo de tener un resultado grave de COVID-19, incluso por debajo del nivel que esperaría de la influenza. Entonces, esa es una de las razones por las que querrán asegurarse de estar protegidos con todas las dosis disponibles para vacunarse y asegurarse de recibir refuerzos.

Bill Walsh: Buen consejo, y vamos a responder más preguntas de los oyentes en breve. Pero ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida a la directora ejecutiva de AARP, Jo Ann Jenkins, para hablar sobre cómo AARP está apoyando a los adultos mayores y la importancia de una educación confiable sobre la COVID-19.

Bill Walsh: Bienvenida, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Gracias, Bill.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, estamos encantados de tenerla aquí hoy. Ahora bien, la pandemia global tiene profundas implicaciones para todos nosotros. Y la información confiable, sistemática e imparcial es crucial en un momento de incertidumbre. ¿Qué ha estado haciendo AARP en este sentido?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Bueno, permítanme decir, en primer lugar, que estoy muy orgullosa de todo el trabajo de nuestro equipo aquí en AARP y las decenas de miles de voluntarios que nos ayudan realmente a llevar a cabo nuestros programas. Creo que, ante todo, lo que ha sido tan gratificante es el trabajo de promoción que hemos realizado. Y el hecho de que cada día AARP hace todo lo posible para asegurarse de proporcionar información veraz y confiable para que puedan tomar decisiones.

Espero que hayan visto eso en nuestras publicaciones, en nuestros boletines y nuestra información en línea que brindamos a todos nuestros socios y al público en general, de hecho. Como hemos estado defendiendo durante estos últimos dos años, ha sido muy importante para nosotros asegurarnos de que el Congreso y la Administración entiendan cuán importante es y cuán poderosa es su voz y su voto en la toma de decisiones para la gente común de este país.

Hemos estado abogando y en la primera línea para asegurarnos de que el Seguro Social esté protegido. Durante los últimos dos años, hemos estado abogando y realmente haciendo escuchar nuestra voz, no solo dentro de Washington, sino trabajando realmente con los gobernadores de todo el país para asegurarnos de que se atiendan las necesidades de las personas en hogares de ancianos, para que pudieran obtener equipos de protección personal y vacunas contra la COVID-19 y todas las demás cosas especiales que necesitaban para asegurarse de que nuestros seres queridos estuvieran seguros.

Ahora, estuvimos allí abogando para asegurarnos de que Medicare permitiera que las citas de telemedicina calificaran bajo el programa de Medicare. Y tan solo con ver el impacto de toda la gente aquí en AARP y escuchar la voz de todo el país hace que me enorgullezca de ser parte de AARP. Sabemos que la información confiable, la información fáctica, que va al grano, es muy útil para todos ustedes, para asegurarse de que tomen las decisiones correctas.

Y el programa de hoy, con los otros expertos líderes en esta llamada es un punto de claridad sobre lo que está pasando con la COVID-19, lo que deben hacer o pensar, y cómo quieren abordar su tratamiento, su vacuna, pero asegurándonos de presentar ambos lados de la historia, y siempre defendiendo a las personas de 50 años o más en este país.

Bill Walsh: Muchas gracias por eso. Jo Ann, mencionó la información errónea. Y, ya sabe, durante la pandemia, posiblemente también tuvimos una infodemia con grandes cantidades de información verdadera, falsa y engañosa que realmente nubló algunos problemas complejos. La verdad es que ha provocado pérdidas innecesarias de vidas y divisiones reales dentro de nuestro país. ¿Cómo superan los estadounidenses la desinformación y la polarización?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Bueno, creo que lo que es tan importante, y lo he dicho durante muchos años, la erosión del discurso cívico de que no podemos sentarnos uno frente al otro y tener una conversación normal y decente, ya sea que estemos de acuerdo o no, es una cosa. Pero deberíamos poder tener conversaciones civilizadas. Y todos los días en AARP, trabajamos para tratar de traer esa voz a la conversación, tratamos de presentar personas en nuestras teleasambleas cuando estamos abogando o tratando de enviar información a todos nuestros socios, y presentamos ambos lados de la historia, y creo que eso es muy importante.

Más que nada, queremos que ejerzan su derecho al voto. Eso es muy importante. Les digo que cuando estoy allí abogando y hablando con los miembros del Congreso, me aseguro de que sepan que las personas mayores de este país son las personas que realmente eligen a los políticos todos los días. Entonces, deberían estar escuchando nuestra voz y realmente escuchando cuáles son los problemas que nos preocupan, ya sea el Seguro Social, Medicare, reducir el costo de los medicamentos recetados, que es tan importante para la seguridad financiera de las personas y su salud y seguridad.

Y creo que eso es lo que diría, ¿cómo mantenemos ese diálogo civil? ¿Cómo tenemos conversaciones sobre temas difíciles? ¿Cómo nos aseguramos de que la gente tenga la información y el acceso al lugar de votación, la información y los antecedentes de por quién quieren votar? Nuestro objetivo es presentarles esa información y luego que nuestros socios decidan por sí mismos qué candidato creen que los posicionará mejor para vivir una vida más larga y saludable.

Bill Walsh: Bien. Ahora, una cosa de la que estamos muy conscientes aquí en AARP es que el 93% de las muertes por COVID-19 ocurrieron en personas de 50 años o más. Y la pandemia realmente reveló algunas desigualdades entre los adultos mayores, las familias de bajos ingresos y las personas de color. ¿ Cómo determinan estas desigualdades el proceder de AARP en el futuro?

[En pantalla:

El 93% de las 947,882 muertes por COVID-19 en EE.UU. fueron de personas de más de 50 años.

En comparación con los estadounidenses blancos, los indios-estadounidenses o nativos de Alaska tienen 2.2 veces más probabilidades de morir por COVID-19, los hispanos y latinos 1.9 y los negros 1.7.

Datos de los CDC al 1.° de marzo del 2022].

Jo Ann Jenkins: Bueno, creo que el punto que señaló es que el 93% de las [900,000] personas que murieron tenían 50 años o más, eso es clave. Y luego vimos de manera desproporcionada una cantidad de negros, hispanos, asiático-estadounidenses y nativos de Alaska, que se vieron afectados de manera desproporcionada o murieron a causa de la COVID-19 o tuvieron menos acceso a las vacunas que necesitaban. Y creo que siempre estamos ahí para todos nuestros socios.

Pero este proceso de tratamiento de COVID-19, por todo lo que hemos estado pasando en estos últimos dos años ha realmente sacado a la luz dónde existen disparidades y dónde debemos prestar más atención para asegurarnos de que las políticas que implementamos, la ejecución del suministro de vacunas, todas esas cosas tengan en cuenta a los que han sido desatendidos a lo largo de las décadas. Y creo que la COVID-19 lo puso en primer plano de manera que hemos estado hablando durante años, pero en realidad, no se podía ver de primera mano.

Y creo que todos nosotros, lamentablemente, ahora tenemos una historia que contar sobre un ser querido que tuvo COVID-19, ya sea que murió a causa de COVID-19 o que lo superó. Y por eso tenemos que trabajar continuamente. Por lo tanto, nuestro trabajo en AARP será firme en torno a la seguridad de la salud y esa resiliencia financiera, y recordaremos a aquellos que se han visto afectados de manera desproporcionada e intentaremos encontrar soluciones a nivel nacional, estatal y local para asegurarnos de que sean incluidos en las conversaciones que tenemos para que podamos traer algo de paridad a la situación.

Bill Walsh: Hace un momento estaba hablando de votar y, por supuesto, estamos en un gran año electoral. Siempre parece que estamos en un año electoral, ¿no es así? Pero como sabemos, ha habido algunos cambios generalizados y reglas y regulaciones de votación en muchos estados del país. ¿Cómo se asegura AARP de que los adultos mayores hagan oír su voz y entiendan cómo votar el día de las elecciones?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Permítanme reiterarlo nuevamente para nuestros oyentes. Las personas de 50 años o más votan en bloques de votación más grandes que cualquier otro bloque de votación en el país. Y entonces, en última instancia, ustedes están decidiendo quién será elegido y es muy importante que salgan y ejerzan su voto.

En AARP, estoy muy emocionada de que vamos a lanzar la campaña Our Voices Decide sobre cómo educamos a nuestros socios y a las personas de 50 años o más en este país sobre lo que está pasando y lo que ha cambiado en su estado para que sepan cómo han cambiado las leyes, donde su lugar de votación puede haber cambiado. Asegurarnos de proporcionar información objetiva sobre los candidatos o sobre los temas que nos preocupan, sobre el Seguro Social, Medicare, Medicaid, reducir el costo de los medicamentos recetados, la atención de enfermería que ha sido un problema tan importante con la COVID-19.

Muchos de nosotros tenemos a un ser querido en un centro de cuidados de enfermería y nos aseguramos de analizar cómo abordamos las necesidades de los hogares de ancianos y también cómo abordamos la atención domiciliaria. Muchos de ustedes son cuidadores en el hogar de un cónyuge, amigo o ser querido. Y esas cosas van a estar al frente y al centro, ya sea un político en ejercicio o un miembro del Gobierno o alguien que se esté postulando para un cargo, esperamos asegurarnos de compartir información sobre todos los candidatos con nuestros socios, para que tengan la oportunidad de decidir por sí mismos por quién van a votar.

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo. Y entiendo que AARP imprimirá o publicará una guía para votantes estado por estado para que la gente pueda ver cómo han cambiado las reglas en su estado.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Absolutamente. Y podrán ir directamente al sitio web aarp.org o al sitio web de su oficina estatal local para poder obtener información sobre quién se presenta a las elecciones, quiénes son los candidatos que se postulan para cada cargo y qué piensan. Entonces, si alguien necesita información, por favor, envíenosla por Facebook por chat, o sea cual sea la forma en que se comuniquen con nosotros. Cuando entro a mi oficina y veo las pilas de cartas que recibo de los socios de AARP, sé que saben cómo ponerse en contacto con nosotros.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Ahora, finalmente, su liderazgo en AARP, Jo Ann, ha dado voz a millones y ha ayudado a personas a envejecer con dignidad y propósito. ¿Qué alimenta su pasión y qué le da esperanza?

Jo Ann Jenkins: Bueno, recuerdo que llegué a Washington hace 40 años, para ser realmente parte del proceso político para trabajar realmente en temas que creo que cambiarían la sociedad. Y creo que me siento más comprometida a poder hacerlo, soy muy afortunada de estar en este cargo aquí en AARP. Cuento mi historia todo el tiempo, que crecí en el bajo Alabama, lo llamamos BA, bajo Alabama, pero tuve la oportunidad de venir a Washington hace más de 40 años.

Tuve la oportunidad de trabajar con varias agencias federales y presidentes de ambos partidos durante mi tiempo aquí. Y tan solo con ver el poder y el impacto y la voz de AARP y la voz de nuestros socios y cómo podemos hacer el bien por los demás en la sociedad, me emociona todos los días. Y me alegro de que todos estemos de vuelta aquí en la oficina hoy para poder continuar con ese trabajo.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, esa voz es más importante que nunca. Muchas gracias por estar con nosotros hoy, Jo Ann.

Jo Ann Jenkins: Gracias.

Bill Walsh: Ahora, volvamos a nuestro experto médico, el Dr. Taison Bell de University of Virginia. Recuerden, si desean hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono en cualquier momento. Dr. Bell, la COVID-19 ha tenido un impacto desproporcionado en las comunidades negras y latinas, que tienen casi el doble de probabilidades de morir que los pacientes blancos. ¿Por qué es eso? ¿Y qué se puede hacer para cambiar esto?

Taison Bell: Muy buena pregunta, Bill. Y mucho de esto tiene que ver con lo que llamamos los determinantes sociales de la salud. Muchas veces, un médico también podría caer en esta trampa. Pensamos en la salud como lo que sucede dentro de las paredes de una clínica o un hospital. Pero la salud realmente significa la circunstancia de su vida, que incluyen el aire que uno respira, el agua que bebe, el espacio transitable en su vecindario, los alimentos en sus supermercados, la facilidad para acceder a medicamentos y profesionales de la salud.

Estas son todas las cosas que se relacionan con la salud. Y el problema es que si bien ahora la gran mayoría de la gente diría que las comunidades negras, hispanas e indígenas merecen igualdad de acceso a las oportunidades, nuestras instituciones en la estructura de la sociedad se establecieron en una época en que la mayoría de la gente no se sentía así, en igualdad de oportunidades. Y esto nos lleva al concepto de racismo estructural.

Y no quiero generalizar demasiado porque no existe una experiencia universalmente compartida, de ser blanco, negro, hispano o indígena en este país. Pero hay tendencias de que las personas de comunidades subrepresentadas suelen vivir en comunidades que han sido privadas de este acceso a los recursos. Y solo puedo contarles la historia de mi crianza, crecí en una comunidad que históricamente fue designada como un barrio negro, era extremadamente difícil si era negro comprar una casa en uno de los barrios blancos de mi ciudad.

Y mi vecindario, de hecho, estaba marcado en rojo, lo que significaba que la FHA (la Autoridad Federal de Vivienda) no aseguraban los préstamos destinados a esa comunidad. Por supuesto, eso significa que los préstamos eran riesgosos, las tasas eran más altas y esa era una comunidad indeseable. Y como resultado de eso, la apreciación o el valor del hogar no aumentaba en esas áreas en la misma medida que en otras áreas. Y aunque la línea roja se prohibió en 1977, esa brecha ha persistido. Y ahora, la casa promedio en un vecindario blanco ha ganado $200,000 más de valor que una casa comparable en un vecindario negro.

Ahora, eso tiene otras consecuencias, además de la falta de apreciación, eso significa que hay menos negocios con propietarios negros, porque hay menos oportunidades de tomar un préstamo contra su casa para iniciar un negocio o enviar a alguien a la universidad. Eso se traduce en menos inversión en las escuelas públicas. Menos oportunidades económicas significa que es menos probable que las empresas ingresen a esas comunidades.

Por lo tanto, es menos probable que las tiendas de comestibles y las farmacias, e incluso los proveedores de atención médica, abran prácticas en esas áreas. Entonces, en mi vecindario no había farmacias, todavía no hay farmacias de cadena privada, no hay tiendas de comestibles, compro mucha comida en una tienda de la esquina, y no tenía acceso a opciones de alimentos más saludables. Y muchas de estas cosas se traducen en última instancia en índices más altos de enfermedades crónicas, es decir, enfermedades cardíacas, diabetes, enfermedades pulmonares, ya sabe, lo que sea.

Y esta es una configuración para tener un resultado grave de COVID-19. Y no solo la COVID-19, sino influenza y muchos de los otros problemas de salud que sufren las personas en el país. Hay índices más altos en estas comunidades. Y ¿cómo solucionamos eso? Primero, reconociendo cuál es el problema y abordándolo de frente.

Creo que las políticas inteligentes como la Ley del Cuidado de Salud a Bajo Precio que cerraron la brecha del seguro ayudaron, pero acabo de exponer que el problema es mucho más amplio que el acceso a la atención médica. Creo que debe haber una inversión específica en programas para revertir el daño económico y social que ha ocurrido en estas comunidades antes de que podamos comenzar a revertir lo que estamos viendo.

Bill Walsh: Muchas gracias, porque realmente tiene un efecto dominó, ¿no? Permítanme hacer un seguimiento. Existe la suposición generalizada de que la tecnología y los datos cerrarán la brecha y mejorarán la atención médica independientemente de la raza o el origen económico. Pero eso no sucedió durante la pandemia. De hecho, un análisis reciente sugiere lo contrario. Los datos con sesgos de selección conducen a una peor atención de las personas de color, ¿qué está pasando aquí y qué pasó?

Taison Bell: Me alegro de que haya mencionado eso, porque esta era una gran esperanza para avanzar en el futuro. Y lo bueno que puedo decir por mí mismo es que todavía tenemos seguridad laboral, porque estos algoritmos todavía no están haciendo lo que se supone que deben hacer. Pero hablando en serio, el problema principal es el hecho de que cuando uno proporciona datos de sesgo o capacitación a estos modelos, continuarán produciendo resultados que están limitados por su propio sesgo. Y puedo dar un ejemplo.

Hay un impulso hacia los vehículos de conducción autónoma en los que uno puede sentarse y el automóvil se conducirá solo. Y uno, como equipo humano, entrena ese auto en la computadora para conducir con seguridad. Y puede dedicarle todo el tiempo del mundo para hacer eso y hacerlo seguro y hacer un buen producto. Pero si toma ese automóvil de Estados Unidos y lo lleva a Londres, donde la gente maneja del lado izquierdo de la carretera, ese automóvil tendrá problemas debido a los sesgos que ponemos en el algoritmo de entrenamiento.

Y del mismo modo, si tenemos sesgos de cómo interpretamos los datos, eso se confirmará en estos algoritmos de inteligencia artificial. De hecho, trabajo con un equipo de informática. Y una de las cosas que siempre dicen es que si pone basura, obtiene basura, lo que significa que los datos que usa para entrenar estos algoritmos e inteligencia artificial deben ser muy buenos. Y uno de los problemas con la recopilación de datos es que a menudo está incompleta. Así que la edad y el sexo son los datos más fiables que recopilamos.

Los datos anteriores son muy irregulares, incluido el estado socioeconómico y la raza y el origen étnico. Y los datos deben provenir de múltiples fuentes diferentes y no solo de las bases de datos de atención médica. Ya es bastante difícil obtener información sistemática de las bases de datos de atención médica. Hay muchos diferentes, no tenemos un sistema nacional de salud. No hay una base de datos como en Israel, que solo hay dos. Tenemos múltiples. Por lo tanto, necesitamos mucho más trabajo para preparar este tipo de soluciones todavía.

Bill Walsh: Bien. Muchas gracias por eso. Ahora es el momento de abordar más de sus preguntas sobre la pandemia de coronavirus con el Dr. Taison Bell. Como recordatorio, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP y compartir su pregunta en vivo. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima llamada será de Elizabeth, de Nevada.

Bill Walsh: Hola, Elizabeth, bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Elizabeth: Sí, ¿puede oírme?

Bill Walsh: Así es. Adelante con su pregunta.

Isabel: Está bien. Tengo curiosidad, sigo sintiendo que hay una cantidad sustancial de muertes por COVID-19 en Estados Unidos, y tengo curiosidad en cuanto a qué población está muriendo realmente a causa de esta enfermedad. Y también, he experimentado una escasez sustancial o significativa de trabajadores de la salud.

Trabajé en el cuidado de la salud durante muchos años, sé que siempre ha habido una escasez, que se ha exacerbado sustancialmente. Y es muy, muy difícil conseguir una cita con el médico. Y tengo curiosidad, ¿qué tratamientos hay disponibles para la COVID-19? ¿Están realmente tratando a las personas? Porque parece que hay información variable sobre eso, a veces dicen que hay escasez de tratamientos y otras veces dicen, "está disponible aquí, allá y en todas partes," Bueno, tengo curiosidad.

Bill Walsh: Bien, Elizabeth, gracias.

Jesse Salinas: Bill, creo que la perdimos.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Bueno, dos grandes preguntas. Dr. Bell, ¿puede ayudar? Quiero decir, ella tiene un muy buen punto, ya sabe, con todas las restricciones relajadas con respecto al distanciamiento social y el uso de mascarillas, es fácil olvidar que mueren más de 1,000 personas por día en el país.

Taison Bell: Así es. Y esa es una métrica a la que siempre vuelvo, esta es una mejora sobre nuestros máximos, pero sigue siendo una cantidad inaceptablemente alta de personas que mueren por COVID-19. Y la edad sigue siendo uno de los factores de riesgo más fuertes. Entonces, el 74% de las personas que mueren en este país han sido personas de 65 años o más. Y esa es parte de la razón por la que se ve que los adultos mayores dan un paso al frente, se vacunan y reciben el refuerzo.

Los índices más altos de vacunación son de personas en este foro. Pero ese sigue siendo uno de los factores de riesgo más fuertes. Por eso es tan importante protegerse y vacunarse y recibir el refuerzo. Y me alegro de que haya sacado a relucir el tema de la escasez de atención médica y el personal de atención médica.

Sabe, tenía un amigo que hizo una analogía de que pasar por COVID-19 durante un aumento de COVID-19 es como pasar por una guerra en el sentido de que el conflicto puede terminar en algún momento, pero van a quedar cicatrices de ese conflicto que lleva años sanar, si es que sanan. Y siento que la fuerza laboral de atención médica está en ese estado en el que estamos profundamente marcados, no estamos fuera de peligro de ninguna manera.

Pero muchas personas acaban de decidir que es hora de pasar a otra cosa, o jubilarse antes de tiempo o se dedican a otro campo. Y estamos teniendo pérdidas como resultado de estas oleadas repetidas. Desafortunadamente, no me sorprende que la gente tenga problemas para conseguir citas, y si estamos en una situación de oleada, creo que será aún peor, en algún lugar, he tenido que cancelar procedimientos electivos, por ejemplo.

Entonces, tenemos que trabajar un poco para tratar de asegurarnos de que los trabajadores de la salud estén sanos mental y físicamente y puedan permanecer en la fuerza laboral y reclutar a más personas. Pero estos serán algunos de los efectos persistentes de la COVID-19 una vez que entremos en esa fase endémica.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Muchas gracias, Dr. Bell. Jesse, volvamos a la fila. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra próxima pregunta será de Nancy en Facebook, y pregunta qué trabajo se ha hecho para ayudar a las personas con COVID-19 prolongada. Lo está teniendo actualmente, tiene problemas de memoria y de corazón.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Bell, la COVID-19 prolongada es algo sobre lo que hemos escuchado mucho, pero no creo que sepamos mucho. ¿Qué nos puede decir?

Taison Bell: Sí, me alegro por la pregunta. Porque la COVID-19 prolongada, nuevamente, hablamos sobre los efectos persistentes de la COVID-19. Desafortunadamente, creo que este será uno de los otros legados duraderos de la COVID-19. Ahora estamos investigando mucho para tratar de aclarar exactamente qué es la COVID-19 prolongada.

Tiene atributos muy diferentes dependiendo de la persona, pero tiene muchos tipos diferentes de efectos secundarios, que van desde la pérdida persistente del gusto y el olfato, problemas cognitivos, algunas personas tienen problemas pulmonares y no pueden reanudar sus actividades habituales. Entonces, estas son todas las cosas que se han conectado con la COVID-19 prolongada. Ahora hay investigaciones en marcha, que están reclutando pacientes para tratar de aclarar exactamente qué enfermedades hay. Pero esto es algo sobre lo que estamos aprendiendo en tiempo real a medida que avanza la enfermedad. Entonces, me imagino que aprenderemos más y más con el tiempo y, con suerte, aprenderemos un poco más sobre los tratamientos.

Lo bueno es que sabemos que la vacunación y el refuerzo reducen el riesgo de la COVID-19 prolongada junto con algunos de los otros efectos duraderos de la misma. Así que es otra razón para hacerlo. Pero diría que para las personas que sufren de COVID-19 prolongada, ciertamente no son invisibles, no están solas. Y sigan hablando con sus proveedores médicos sobre las nuevas terapias o investigaciones que existen.

Bill Walsh: Bien, Dr. Bell, muchas gracias. Y como recordatorio para nuestros oyentes y televidentes, para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono para ingresar a la cola. Y si están en Facebook o YouTube, déjenla en la sección de comentarios. Vamos a tomar más de sus preguntas en vivo en breve. Pero antes de hacerlo, quiero traer a Nancy LeaMond. Nancy es vicepresidenta ejecutiva y directora de Activismo Legislativo y Compromiso de AARP. Bienvenida, Nancy.

[En el teléfono: Nancy LeaMond]

Nancy LeaMond: Hola, Bill, encantada de estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Estamos encantados de tenerla. Me gustaría tomarme unos minutos para actualizar a nuestros oyentes sobre cómo AARP está luchando por ellos en los temas que más les preocupan. Nancy, ¿cuáles son las últimas noticias del Capitolio en el frente de la defensa?

Nancy LeaMond: Reducir el costo de los medicamentos recetados sigue siendo un enfoque importante para AARP, tanto en Washington como en las capitales estatales de todo el país. Recién en enero volvieron a subir los precios del 75% de los medicamentos más recetados en Medicare. Y ahora mismo hay un proyecto de ley en el Congreso que finalmente permitiría que Medicare negocie precios más bajos de medicamentos y bajaría los gastos de bolsillo para medicamentos para los beneficiarios de Medicare.

Nunca hemos estado tan cerca de una reforma importante de los medicamentos recetados. Más del 80% de los votantes de todos los partidos políticos apoyan las reformas de este proyecto de ley y nuestros líderes electos deben cumplir su promesa a las personas del país y reducir los precios de los medicamentos recetados ahora.

Bill Walsh: ¿Cuáles son los cambios específicos por los que AARP está luchando?

Nancy LeaMond: AARP apoya cuatro políticas principales en el proyecto de ley que está ante el Congreso en este momento y que producirán una gran diferencia para las personas mayores que luchan por pagar sus medicamentos. Primero, Medicare debe poder negociar el precio de algunos medicamentos recetados. Los residentes de EE.UU. pagan hoy tres veces más de lo que pagan las personas en otros países por exactamente los mismos medicamentos, y es imperdonable.

En segundo lugar, el proyecto de ley establecería un límite de $2,000 por año en los gastos de bolsillo en medicamentos para los beneficiarios de la Parte D de Medicare. Esto proporcionaría un alivio financiero significativo a las personas que toman medicamentos que pueden costar decenas de miles de dólares cada año.

En tercer lugar, el proyecto de ley penalizaría a las empresas que aumentaran los precios de los medicamentos más rápido que la tasa de inflación. Y cuarto, el proyecto de ley limitaría lo que la gente paga de su bolsillo por la insulina a $35 por mes.

Bill Walsh: Serían tremendos beneficios. Ahora que la pandemia avanza a su tercer año, ¿puede decirnos cómo AARP ha abordado la defensa durante este tiempo?

Nancy LeaMond: Quiero repetir la estadística mencionada anteriormente que es asombrosa, pero muestra por qué este trabajo es tan importante. Estados Unidos ahora ha visto casi un millón de muertes por COVID-19. El 93% de estas muertes, 93%, han sido de personas de 50 años o más. Eso significa que en los últimos dos años hemos perdido a casi 900,000 adultos mayores en Estados Unidos a causa de este virus; padres y abuelos, miembros de la comunidad y amigos.

Es desgarrador y es inaceptable. Nuestro país necesita mejorar, y es por eso que luchamos por las necesidades de los adultos mayores todos los días. A lo largo de la pandemia a través de dos Administraciones diferentes y muchos proyectos de ley del Congreso, AARP ha luchado arduamente para proteger a los adultos mayores y seguirá estando a la vanguardia para ayudar a las personas a envejecer de manera segura con independencia y dignidad.

Bill Walsh: Ahora, Nancy, los residentes de hogares de ancianos se han visto especialmente afectados por la COVID-19. ¿Qué tipo de cambios estamos creando en los hogares de ancianos de Estados Unidos?

Nancy LeaMond: Estados Unidos necesita reformar su sistema de atención médica a largo plazo, eso lo sabemos. La pandemia ha sacado a la luz los problemas de salud y seguridad existentes. Los residentes y el personal de hogares de ancianos constituyen el 1% de la población que ha representado alrededor del 23% de las muertes por COVID-19. Esto es una desgracia nacional.

AARP ha liderado la lucha, y la buena noticia es que estamos comenzando a ver reformas que mejorarán la calidad, la seguridad y la atención de los hogares de ancianos. Luchamos por lograr una mayor transparencia en cuanto a enfermedades y muertes y un mejor acceso para visitas, vacunas y pruebas y más apoyo para los cuidadores familiares.

Ahora estamos instando al Gobierno federal a tomar medidas para garantizar estándares mínimos de personal y responsabilizar a los hogares de ancianos si no brindan atención de calidad. Y también, si uno tiene un ser querido en un hogar de ancianos hoy, vale la pena señalar que uno de cada tres residentes de hogares de ancianos aún no ha recibido su refuerzo de COVID-19. Por favor, no den por sentado que su familiar ha recibido el suyo. Llamen y asegúrense de que reciban su refuerzo.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, Nancy, muchas gracias por la actualización. Hemos recibido muy buena información hoy sobre la COVID-19. Pero la desinformación sobre la COVID-19 continúa floreciendo. De hecho, ha socavado los esfuerzos de salud pública para poner fin a la pandemia. Presentamos un segmento que llamamos Four-minute Fact Check donde preguntamos a los expertos de MediaWise, un programa de orientación mediática que ayuda a las personas mayores a detectar información errónea para ayudar a desacreditar afirmaciones engañosas y comprender por qué la información errónea es tan problemática. Hoy quiero dar la bienvenida a Julio Vaqueiro, reportero y presentador de Noticias Telemundo. Es embajador de noticias de MediaWise en Español, un programa que educa a los hispanohablantes mayores de 50 años. Gracias por acompañarnos hoy, Julio.

Julio Vaqueiro: Muchas gracias, Bill. Un placer estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Un placer tenerlo. Ahora bien, Julio, ¿cómo es que la desinformación compite o socava el trabajo de los periodistas?

Julio Vaqueiro: Creo que el periodismo es más importante ahora que nunca. Es esencial para la supervivencia de la democracia. Es vital para el bienestar de la sociedad en su conjunto. Y ahora con tanto ruido a nuestro alrededor y con tanta desinformación, es más importante que nunca. Es cierto que es más difícil hacer nuestro trabajo porque la desinformación no consiste sólo en difundir falsedades. También consiste en hacer que la gente dude de los hechos para cuestionar la verdad. Y por eso tenemos que ser impecables en lo que hacemos. Debemos tener especial cuidado en verificar dos veces los hechos y las fuentes para que la gente siga confiando en el periodismo real a largo plazo.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Bueno, existen muchas iniciativas para refutar información mala o intencionalmente engañosa. ¿Están surtiendo efecto?

Julio Vaqueiro: Bueno, espero que así sea. Quiero decir, como dijo, se está trabajando mucho en este momento, especialmente en inglés. Y creo que tenemos que trabajar más en esto para la audiencia de habla hispana. Pero, por ejemplo, en Noticias Telemundo, colaboramos con Poynter Institute y MediaWise y lanzamos MediaWise en Español. Lo que estamos haciendo es ofrecer talleres y videos en línea en YouTube. Y también pueden encontrarlos en WhatsApp si los piden.

En estos videos, tratamos de enseñar a las personas cómo detectar falsedades, cómo encontrar información errónea y cómo saber si algo que encuentran en línea es verdadero o falso, para que se pregunten si deben compartir la información o no. Y hasta ahora ha estado dando resultado. Tenemos una buena respuesta por parte del público, así que creo que seguimos trabajando y espero que sigamos tomando este tipo de iniciativas.

Bill Walsh: Se realizó un reportaje reciente desde uno de los puntos críticos del planeta, la frontera entre Polonia y Ucrania. Un vínculo entre la invasión de Ucrania y la COVID-19 es la desinformación que se origina en Rusia. ¿Cómo utiliza Rusia la desinformación como arma? ¿Y cuál es el beneficio para Rusia al difundir desinformación sobre la COVID-19?

Julio Vaqueiro: Sí, fuimos a la frontera entre Polonia y Ucrania precisamente porque queríamos ver el problema y la crisis humanitaria de primera mano. Y es por eso que es tan importante tener reporteros en el lugar que observen lo que sucede y compartan lo que ven. Esa es la única manera de saber exactamente lo que está pasando en Ucrania. Porque para ser honesto, en tiempos de guerra, ambos lados usan propaganda.

Ahora, cuando se trata de información errónea, los mecanismos que usan los rusos y la infraestructura doméstica que tienen para difundir información errónea es muy sofisticada. Y lo vimos durante la campaña del 2020, lo vimos durante esta pandemia de COVID-19, y lo que están tratando de hacer, y las autoridades estadounidenses han dicho claramente que están tratando de amenazar la estabilidad.

Además, están tratando de dividir al público estadounidense para que los asuntos internos en Estados Unidos sean lo suficientemente grandes como para que el gobierno no tenga tiempo de concentrarse en asuntos internacionales. Así que ese es el objetivo número uno. Por eso tenemos que tener mucho cuidado con las fuentes de las que obtenemos la información de las noticias.

Bill Walsh: Los expertos dicen que los sitios de redes sociales se retrasan o ignoran una gran cantidad de información errónea en los sitios en español. Y esto ha empeorado las cosas, porque sabemos que las comunidades hispanas latinas utilizan mucho las redes sociales para informarse. ¿Los sitios de redes sociales están dando por sentadas las audiencias hispanas latinas?

Julio Vaqueiro: Bueno, no sé si la están dando por sentada. Pero diría esto, las plataformas de redes sociales necesitan trabajar mucho para eliminar las falsedades y la desinformación en español de sus plataformas. Tienen mucho trabajo por hacer para servir de mejor manera a su comunidad hispana. Es cierto que los latinos usan las plataformas sociales, más que otros grupos, muchas encuestas así lo demuestran.

Sin embargo, no son el único grupo que recibe noticias y obtiene sus noticias de las redes sociales. Pero sí usan mucho Facebook y WhatsApp. Y lo hacen porque esa es una forma de ponerse en contacto con familiares en otros países y en otras partes de Estados Unidos. Entonces, comparten esta información en español o en spanglish y el algoritmo de las redes sociales no está listo para detectar esa desinformación en otros idiomas. Entonces ahí es donde se debe enfocar el trabajo, creo yo, atendiendo la información en español y la desinformación en español y la desinformación en spanglish.

Bill Walsh: Bien, Julio Vaqueiro, muchas gracias por eso. Y gracias por su excelente trabajo en esta área. Me gustaría traer al Dr. Bell nuevamente para abordar parte de la información errónea más reciente sobre la COVID-19. Dr. Bell, voy a mencionar algunas afirmaciones sobre la COVID-19 y las vacunas que hemos visto recientemente. ¿Puede abordar rápidamente cada una de ellas y decirnos si son verdaderas o falsas? Comencemos con una que hemos escuchado bastante, que las vacunas contra la COVID-19 son experimentales, ¿verdadero o falso?

Taison Bell: Eso es falso. Están completamente aprobadas. 250 millones de personas han recibido dosis, esto no es un experimento. Se trata de asegurarse de que surtan efecto, como una pelota que lanza al aire y volverá a bajar a la tierra.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Ahora, otra que hemos escuchado es que las vacunas contra la COVID-19 pueden alterar el ADN, ¿verdadero o falso?

Taison Bell: Eso también es falso. Las células protegen el ADN en un compartimento especial en su interior y la vacuna ni siquiera interactúa con ese compartimento. Ni siquiera entra en contacto con el ADN, y mucho menos lo cambia.

Bill Walsh: Ahora, a pesar de las noticias que dicen lo contrario, todavía hay información que dice que las vacunas no son eficaces, ¿verdadero o falso?

Taison Bell: Falso, son increíblemente eficaces. Son unas de las vacunas más exitosas que hemos tenido. Y son simplemente geniales. Muy falso.

Bill Walsh: Ahora, aquí hay una que ha persistido durante bastante tiempo, las mascarillas no son eficaces para proteger contra el coronavirus, ¿verdadero o falso?

Taison Bell: Eso es falso. La ciencia es clara en que las mascarillas son eficaces, pero especialmente con ómicron, el tipo de mascarilla que se usa es importante. Entonces, le digo a la gente que use una mascarilla de alta calidad, al menos de grado quirúrgico o médico. Y luego, si realmente quiere protegerse, una N95.

Bill Walsh: Bien, y aquí hay una que ha sido particularmente obstinada, escuchamos que las vacunas causan problemas cardíacos, ¿verdadero o falso?

Taison Bell: Esto surgió en el contexto de la inflamación del corazón, y hubo estudios que analizaron la inflamación del corazón por la vacuna. Pero esos han sido desacreditados en gran medida. Está el estudio más reciente, que analizó a 192 millones de personas, más de la mitad de las personas en nuestro país que recibieron la vacuna, y tenemos algo así como 1,500 casos de inflamación del corazón. Ahora les recuerdo que la propia COVID-19 causa inflamación del corazón a un ritmo mucho mayor. Así que lo digo muy en serio, Bill, es más probable que una vaca lo atropelle a que tengas un problema de inflamación del corazón a causa de la vacuna.

Bill Walsh: Bien, Dr. Bell y Julio Vaqueiro, muchas gracias por esa información. Dr. Bell, permítame hacerle otra pregunta que hemos visto recientemente. Un análisis reciente que utilizó datos del Departamento de Asuntos de Veteranos de EE.UU. identificó una lista preocupante de complicaciones de COVID-19 a largo plazo, que incluyen una mayor incidencia de enfermedades cardíacas, derrames cerebrales y coágulos. Y esta semana, un estudio en la revista médica The Lancet que utilizó datos de veteranos indica un aumento significativo del riesgo de diabetes después de una infección. Dados estos riesgos, si uno ha tenido COVID-19, ¿debería visitar a su médico de atención primaria con más frecuencia en el próximo año?

Taison Bell: Bueno, creo que el consejo general es asegurarse de conectarse con la atención primaria en general, porque tenemos datos que indican que muchas personas han descuidado su atención primaria durante la pandemia, especialmente al principio. Pero Bill, este es uno de estos temas sobre los que creo que aprenderemos más a medida que pase el tiempo.

Así como pensamos en la diabetes como una enfermedad de múltiples órganos, debemos comenzar a pensar en la COVID-19 como una enfermedad de múltiples órganos que causa muchos problemas diferentes en diferentes sistemas de órganos. Ahora, este estudio de VA que mencionó fue muy interesante. Ahora, VA es una población diferente a la del estadounidense promedio. Pero encontraron que había similitudes entre muchos subconjuntos diferentes.

Entonces, entre las mujeres veteranas en comparación con los hombres, las minorías raciales en comparación con los veteranos blancos, las personas de diferente edad, las personas de diferente índice de masa corporal, por ejemplo, todos tenían este fenómeno de una mayor probabilidad de tener diabetes después de COVID-19. Entonces, lo que esto realmente nos permite saber es que debemos pensar en esta como una enfermedad compleja. Otra cosa para señalar que encontré fascinante en este estudio es que el riesgo en realidad era más alto si uno tenía una enfermedad más grave.

Entonces, si estaba hospitalizado, su riesgo era tres veces mayor en comparación con un 46% veces mayor. Si estaba en la UCI, en los casos más graves, tenía cinco veces más probabilidades de tener diabetes en comparación con alguien que no estaba tan enfermo. Nuevamente, esto subraya la importancia de tratar de prevenir enfermedades graves, ya que no solo nos mantiene fuera del hospital, fuera de la UCI, sino que parece que podría disminuir las posibilidades de tener estas otras complicaciones en el futuro.

Bill Walsh: Está bien, muy bien. Ahora, un seguimiento rápido a eso. Hemos visto algunos otros artículos en las noticias, en realidad, solo en los últimos días. Esta semana, Moderna compartió que anticipa un cuarto refuerzo este otoño combinado con vacunas para virus respiratorios estacionales como la gripe, y están buscando la aprobación de la FDA para una dosis pediátrica baja para niños muy pequeños. ¿Qué deben saber nuestros oyentes y televidentes sobre esta noticia?

Taison Bell: Bueno, creo que noticias como esta son muy alentadoras. Tengo una hija de cuatro años en casa. Y como muchos otros padres de niños pequeños, he estado esperando el día en que pueda vacunarla y asegurarme de que esté protegida. Afortunadamente, sabemos que es poco probable que las personas muy jóvenes tengan una enfermedad grave, pero sucede y las vacunas son muy seguras y eficaces. Entonces, si eso se autoriza, ella será la primera en la fila para tratar de vacunarse.

Y cuando se trata de refuerzos y lo que depara el futuro, una de las cosas que realmente he aprendido a no intentar hacer en el transcurso de la pandemia es predecir el futuro, porque muchas personas simplemente se equivocan. Entonces, existe la posibilidad de que tengamos que repetir refuerzos, pero todavía no estoy convencido de esa idea, solo porque hemos visto lo bien que protegen las vacunas contra la COVID-19 grave, la hospitalización y la muerte.

Y llegarán a un punto en el que tendremos que decidir como país qué tan agresivos queremos ser para tratar de prevenir la enfermedad sintomática, porque teniendo COVID-19 de bajo riesgo, tenemos tos y tal vez fiebre, pero estamos bien en general. Es muy diferente a terminar en el hospital y podemos prevenir en gran medida esos resultados graves, y la métrica podría cambiar en términos de la agresividad con la que se avance. Pero en cuanto a si vamos a necesitar una inyección anual, no estoy seguro en este momento.

Bill Walsh: Gracias por esa perspectiva, y lo vamos a tener nuevamente en el programa para que nos brinde una actualización. Esta ha sido una discusión muy informativa. Gracias a todos nuestros panelistas por responder nuestras preguntas. Y gracias a nuestros socios, voluntarios y oyentes de AARP por participar en esta discusión.

AARP, una organización de membresía, no partidista y sin fines de lucro, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los estadounidenses mayores durante más de 60 años. Ante esta crisis, estamos brindando información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan a protegerse del virus y prevenir la propagación a otros mientras se cuidan a sí mismos.

Todos los recursos a los que se hizo referencia hoy, incluida una grabación del evento de preguntas y respuestas se podrán encontrar en aarp.org/coronavirus a partir de mañana, 25 de marzo. Vayan allí si sus preguntas no fueron respondidas y encontrarán las últimas actualizaciones, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares. Y si necesitan asistencia de Medicare durante la COVID-19, visiten el siguiente sitio web: shiphelp.org/covid-19. Eso es shiphelp.org/covid-19.

Esperamos que hayan aprendido algo que pueda ayudarlos a ustedes y a sus seres queridos a mantenerse saludables. Acompáñanos nuevamente el próximo mes, el 14 de abril, para participar en otro evento en vivo de preguntas y respuestas sobre el coronavirus. Y no se pierdan AARP Celebrates You, que comienza esta noche hasta el 26 de marzo. Es un fin de semana lleno de diversión con eventos gratuitos en línea que incluyen charlas con celebridades, películas clásicas y otras actividades. Visiten aarp.org/celebrates para conocer más detalles. Esperamos que puedan participar. Muchas gracias y que tengan un buen día. Esto concluye nuestra llamada.

Coronavirus: Impact on Older Adults and Looking Ahead

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

Join AARP and special guest Taison Bell, M.D., from the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Virginia, for this video call-in event to address the impact of COVID on older Americans, variants and boosters. AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins joins the discussion to share how AARP is supporting older adults, the importance of trustworthy COVID education, and how we can move forward together. Reporter Julio Vaqueiro from Noticias Telemundo also helps us distinguish what current coronavirus information is true and what is misinformation.

Experts:

Taison Bell, M.D.
Infectious Diseases Division, University of Virginia

Julio Vaqueiro
Reporter and News Anchor, Noticias Telemundo

Jo Ann Jenkins
Chief Executive Officer, AARP


For the latest coronavirus news and advice, go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • May 5 - Coronavirus: Life Beyond the Pandemic
  • April 14Coronavirus: Boosters, Testing and Nursing Home Safety
  • March 24Coronavirus: Impact on Older Adults and Looking Ahead
  • March 10Coronavirus: What We’ve Learned and Moving Forward
  • February 24Coronavirus: Current State, What to Expect, and Heart Health
  • February 10 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Vaccines and Mental Wellness
  • January 27 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Looking Ahead, and the Impact on Nursing Homes
  • January 13 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe During Changing Times
  • December 16 - Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About Boosters, Vaccines & Variants
  • December 9 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Vaccines and Your Health
  • November 18 - Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered — Vaccines, Misinformation & Mental Wellness
  • November 4 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Health & Wellness
  • October 21 - Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health & Caring for Loved Ones
  • October 7 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Flu Vaccines and Wellness Visits
  • September 23 - Coronavirus: Delta Variant, Boosters & Self Care
  • September 9 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, Caring for Loved Ones & New Work Realities
  • August 26 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, New Work Realities & Managing Finances
  • August 12 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe in Changing Times
  • June 24 - The State of LGBTQ Equality in the COVID Era
  • June 17 - Coronavirus: Vaccines And Staying Safe During “Reopening”
  • June 3 - Coronavirus: Your Health, Finances & Housing
  • May 20 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • May 6 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • April 22 - Your Vaccine Questions Answered and Coronavirus: Vaccines and Asian American and Pacific Islanders
  • April 8 - Coronavirus and Latinos: Safety, Protection and Prevention and Vaccines and Caring for Grandkids and Loved Ones
  • April 1 - Coronavirus and The Black Community: Your Vaccine Questions Answered
  • March 25 - Coronavirus: The Stimulus, Taxes and Vaccine
  • March 11 - One Year of the Pandemic and Managing Personal Finances and Taxes
  • February 25 - Coronavirus Vaccines and You
  • February 11 - Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered
  • January 28 - Coronavirus: Vaccine Distribution and Protecting Yourself
    & A Virtual World Awaits: Finding Fun, Community and Connections
  • January 14 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying Safe & Coping and Prevention, Vaccines & the Black Community
  • January 7 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe
  • Dec 3 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe & Coping This Winter
  • Nov 19 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying and A Caregiver's Thanksgiving
  • Nov 12 - Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
  • Oct 1 - Coronavirus: Vaccines & Coping During the Pandemic
  • Sept 17 - Coronavirus: Prevention, Treatments, Vaccines & Avoiding Scams
  • Sept 3 - Coronavirus: Your Finances, Health & Family (6 months in)
  • Aug 20 - Your Health and Staying Protected
  • Aug 6 - Coronavirus: Answering Your Most Frequent Questions
  • July 23 - Coronavirus: Navigating the New Normal
  • July 16 - The Health and Financial Security of Latinos
  • July 9 - Coronavirus: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • June 18 and 20 - Strengthening Relationships Over Time and  LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Protections
  • June 11 – Coronavirus: Personal Resilience in the New Normal