We’ve known for some time that COVID-19 poses a great risk to those in long-term care facilities. Put simply, residents are likely to be older and diagnosed with significant health conditions, both of which can worsen coronavirus outcomes.


The toll has been substantial. The Topeka Capital-Journal’s India Yarborough reported last month that "70% of the county’s coronavirus-related deaths have been associated with long-term care facilities."


That’s a stunning total. But it aligns with information from across the rest of the country.


The Kaiser Family Foundation has noted that "Nationwide, deaths in long-term care facilities account for 40% of all COVID-19 deaths." In many states, those numbers are higher.


We know that senior facility staff have been working hard during the pandemic. We can only imagine the stress and strain of attempting to keep residents healthy while working and living in a communal, shared space.


Yet those running these facilities owe their communities attention and details. They must be transparent about their case numbers and deaths caused by the disease. The families of those in the facilities deserve it. If cases are hushed up, communities may not have a full picture of the virus’ toll at any one time.


What’s more, owners and managers set examples and expectations for those who work in the facilities. If workers are sick and still come in to work, they could be putting residents at risk. If proper masking and distancing procedures aren’t followed, they could be putting residents at risk. It may be difficult and expensive to do so, but it’s critical.


Too often, our society dismisses those who may live in long-term care facilities. How often do people joke about sending someone "to the home"? We don’t like to imagine that someday we may be infirm or need round-the-clock care.


But these folks deserve the same care and attention as any family, as any resident of a town. They’re part of our communities, and sources of tremendous experience and wisdom. They shouldn’t just be protected — they should be treasured.


Many residents at these facilities could be among the first vaccinated. That means that their lives could be transformed within the next month or so. But until that point, we should expect clarity and communication from those who care for them.