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5 percent of Pa. nursing homes report at least 1 coronavirus case

Patriot-News - 3/29/2020

Five percent of the nursing homes in Pennsylvania have at least one positive case of the coronavirus.

In her daily update Sunday on the status of the spread of the coronavirus, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the majority of coronavirus cases found in nursing homes have been reported in the southeastern part of the state, where the vast majority of overall cases have been reported.

The number of confirmed cases across the state increased by 643 Sunday, reaching a total of 3,394 with 38 deaths.

Of those confirmed cases, 64 have been reported in nursing homes, which accounts for less than 0.1 percent of the state’s nursing-home population, Levine said.

“Many Pennsylvanians have loved ones in nursing homes and are very concerned,” she said in Sunday’s press briefing. “I have a loved one in a personal care home. My mother.”

Since those living in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable to the coronavirus due to their age and underlying medical conditions, she said people should refrain from visiting them in person, even though it’s a very difficult thing to do.

At the beginning of March, to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the state enacted strict guidelines for nursing homes, particularly with visitor restrictions.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, “please do not visit them,” Levine said. “We are seeing community spread in most areas of Pennsylvania.”

While in-person visits are restricted, she said people can keep in touch through phone calls, letters and video chat. Levine said she calls her own mother two times per day, and it is important to stay in touch, particularly during these difficult times.

If it is an end-of-life situation, though, she recommends calling the nursing home to make arrangements.

Asymptomatic employees of nursing homes are not being tested, she said. A negative test does not mean much if the subject is showing no symptoms since they could be exposed the next day. But employees who are sick or have a fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms are asked to stay home.

There have been 36 facilities in the state with at least one positive case, making up 5 percent of the nursing homes in Pennsylvania, most of which are in the southeast, she said.

At least one has been reported in western Pennsylvania in Beaver County. That home, the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, has seen 14 cases as of Sunday, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to close and schools are closed statewide at least through April 6. Currently 22 counties are under stay-at-home orders.

Levine said Sunday stay-at-home orders are being examined and rolled out on a daily basis. While Dauphin and Cumberland counties, which are not under a stay-at-home order, have more or the same amount of cases than Centre County, which is, a number of factors come into play when deciding where to issue those orders. One of those factors is the per capita amount of cases. The state also consults with county officials to make that determination.

As of Sunday, Dauphin County had 35 cases, Cumberland County had 22 and Centre County had 22.

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