Of the 4,624 people who have already died of the coronavirus in Pennsylvania, at least two-thirds of them were associated with nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
Last week Pennsylvania’s health department said it’s “executing a robust universal testing strategy” for the more than 80,000 residents and 10,000 staffers at 1,900-plus facilities.
But in the week since the announcement, some long-term care facilities have been left confused and saying they haven’t been given enough guidance. SpotlightPA reported on some weaknesses in the current guidance: that it calls for voluntary compliance; recommends full testing only at facilities with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases; and excludes long-term care facilities that aren’t nursing homes.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine responded to criticism of the plan, telling NPR’s Morning Edition: “The plan is an evolution, and we’re going to be working with each facility to make sure that the testing gets accomplished.”
Here are selected excerpts from the interview:
When do you think you’ll be able to say, “All right, we have at least once tested every person in a long-term care facility and every employee in a long-term care facility.” How far out are we looking?
It’ll probably take at least several weeks or a month to test everyone in those facilities, and we are rolling that out as we speak. Because a viral test is not conclusive, for if you’re negative on one day, you could be positive several days later, all of the facilities will need to have a regular schedule in terms of their testing. But that schedule will need to be individualized. But as you’ve pointed out, this is quite a project. And so we’re working all of that out now and we’ll make sure that it gets accomplished.