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Long-Term Care Facilities Still Reeling From COVID-19 Now Prepping For Flu

Long-term care facilities across the state are still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. And it’s unlikely staff at these places will get much of a break in the coming months. That’s because flu season is right around the corner. 

Flu is predictably unpredictable — that’s something Dr. Cara Christ, the head of the Arizona department of health, would tell reporters. But she’s right. And this year, those words couldn’t be more true. Now, long-term care facilities have to be ready for flu and COVID-19. 

Dave Voepel is the CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association, which represents many skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.

"And when you throw flu on top of a pandemic that’s already happened, that's already happening in your workforce is tired and depleted," said Voepel. "And your PPE is depleted. If you could have a recipe for disaster again here."

"Our message back to our members is, ‘Hey, stockpile PPE because you know what's coming. You've got almost two months to get going here or maybe even more if it's a delayed flu season, so we know it's coming. So be prepared,’" Voepel said. 

Because of the pandemic, PPE has been difficult to acquire for some long-term care facilities, especially many assisted-living facilities, which are not regulated at the federal level. 

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.