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Early into the COVID pandemic, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts warned that older adults were among those most vulnerable to the disease, as multiple studies from China, Italy, Washington State, and New York City showed that age greater than 65 significantly increased the risk of severe disease and/or death from the novel 2019 coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control data through June 2020 show that nearly 81% of deaths due to COVID-19 are of people 65 years of age and older. These breakdowns indicate that, primarily, persons with advanced age and most, often, those with multiple chronic conditions are those who have died. The effects of the virus led to public health measures aimed at reducing exposures of older people and other vulnerable populations. The disease was amplified in rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living centers, group homes, and other long-term care facilities serving a primarily geriatric population. Even as parts of the country are opening up, the death toll is still climbing and affecting the older adult population disproportionately. Duty to care, autonomy and self-determination, non-judgmental regard, justice, and futility are all significant ethical principles and constructs that have arisen in the intense and real-time application of healthcare as we continue to face the present global pandemic. We use an ethical lens to examine the medical response of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on the older adult population and explore if society is doing enough to protect older adults, or rather, engaging in and furthering collective and systematic elder abuse.
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