Press release

American Kidney Fund Urges Caution as State Governments Move Forward with Re-openings Amid Pandemic

Adequate safeguards and testing must be in place for high-risk populations including those living with kidney disease

ROCKVILLE, Md. (May 13, 2020) -- The American Kidney Fund (AKF) is extremely concerned about recent decisions by some state and local governments to relax stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines before adequate safeguards are in place. 37 million people — or 1 in 7 adults — in the United States are living with kidney disease. Many of these Americans have multiple chronic conditions and are thus at high risk for contracting and severely suffering from COVID-19. They must take actions to reduce exposure. For those Americans living with kidney failure – also known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD) — the situation is perhaps even more critical.

In order to survive, most ESRD patients on hemodialysis must travel to dialysis centers three days a week for four hours at a time to receive treatment. Sheltering in place is not an option for them, and every time they leave their homes, they risk exposure. Now it has become even more challenging for those who live in states and localities that have begun relaxing stay-at-home orders, particularly since infection rates and death totals continue to rise in communities across the country.

That is why AKF is respectfully calling on state and local governments to develop action plans for reopening that will keep the unique needs of ESRD patients in mind when moderating stay-at-home orders and strict social distancing measures. The shutdown of the American economy has had a severe impact on the population AKF serves, but premature reopening will cost many lives. This is especially important for communities of color. Kidney disease already has a greater impact on minority populations.  For example, African Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, but account for 35% of people on dialysis.

COVID-19 also has a disproportionate impact on African Americans. A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association  stated that more than 50% of COVID-19 cases and nearly 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Chicago are African Americans, though they make up only 30% of the city's population. Moreover, these deaths are concentrated mostly in just five neighborhoods on the city's South Side. In Louisiana, 70.5% of deaths have occurred among African Americans, who represent 32.2% of the state's population. In Michigan, 33% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths are among African Americans, who represent just 14% of the population. 

"While AKF recognizes the dramatic impact that stay-at-home orders have had on all those who have lost their jobs, and on state and local economies, we are also very concerned that prematurely relaxing these orders, before adequate testing is in place, will have a disproportionately deadly impact on vulnerable populations," said LaVarne Burton, president and chief executive officer of the American Kidney Fund. "These moves could needlessly cost lives, especially in minority communities. People with kidney disease and other chronic disease conditions are at particular risk."

About the American Kidney Fund

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.

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