HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra at dais
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, Credit: Anna Moneymaker / Staff/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sounded an alarm Wednesday for older adults to get boosted against COVID-19, as an increasing number of them are dying from the virus. Becerra made the appeal during a weekly call with LeadingAge members.

“Over the last week about 70% of new daily hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients were folks who were 60 years or older,” Becerra said. “People over the age of 65 account for the greatest share of deaths from COVID.” 

In recent weeks, HHS has spent an additional $500 million on programs to boost COVID-19 vaccinations, including $125 million on home vaccination programs.

“We know that there are some people who aren’t mobile and can’t get out, so we are trying to do what we can to reach people where they are,” Becerra told the audience. 

COVID-19 deaths have been spiking across the United States since the end of December, with adults over the age of 65 comprising roughly 90% of those deaths. More than a quarter of new COVID-19 cases are from the highly contagious XBB.1.5 variant. 

In the past month, the Biden administration has increased vaccination and testing efforts for the virus. In December, it made another round of free COVID-19 tests available through the mail and opened additional testing sites. The administration and the National Institute of Health launched a test-to-treat pilot program earlier this month that aims to provide at-home COVID-19 tests, virtual visits and antiviral treatments to 100,000 Americans in their homes. LeadingAge is also partnering with the administration to provide COVID-tests to eligible provider organizations.  

While more than 80% of Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination, only about 16% of the population are up-to-date on all boosters. With booster uptake low and COVID-19 cases climbing, Becerra said the stakes remain high in the battle against the virus.

“We’ve done some good work and had some successes,” he added. “But we’re not through this yet.”

This article originally appeared on McKnights Home Care