Long-term care workers killed by or infected with COVID-19 during the ongoing public health crisis will be commemorated with special recognition by the nation’s largest nursing home association. 

AHCA/NCAL’s COVID-19 “survivor” medal for workers.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living on Wednesday announced its new COVID-19 Honors Program, which will recognize non-association members as well. It allows facilities to laud the heroic efforts made by frontline staffers and others who contracted the coronavirus, which is now responsible for more than 130,000 lives and more than 1.1 million  infections in LTC facilities so far, according to federal data. More than 1,600 of the deaths have been workers.

“They are putting their lives on the line every day by coming to work to care for those most vulnerable to this virus, and we have seen their extraordinary commitment to residents during this pandemic,” AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. “Tragically, too many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”  

The honors will include a pin for workers who helped fight COVID within their facilities and a medal for those who contracted and recovered from the illness. A medal and a U.S. flag that’s been flown over the Capitol will be presented in memory of workers who died due to the virus. Pins, medals and flags can be ordered by facilities through AHCA/NCAL. 

Parkinson added that the program allows providers to pay tribute to staffers who served as a beacon of light to others. The association also plans to honor residents and their families in the future. 

“In the face of COVID-19, our healthcare heroes are working around the clock to provide physical, psychological and compassionate care to residents during this incredibly stressful time. Not only are these heroic staff providing one-on-one care, they are also filling the void of residents’ families and supporting them by giving them a shoulder to lean on,” he said. “They are true heroes.” 

The association previously honored caregivers and residents lost to COVID-19 during a national moment of silence in early October.