Administrators of Allegheny County-owned nursing homes say there is no way to know exactly how COVID-19 spread to roughly one quarter of the residents at its Glen Hazel facility.
So far, four people who lived at Kane Community Living Center’s Glen Hazel facility have died. Fifty of center’s residents and 23 staff have tested positive for COVID-19, eight of whom have recovered. Kane also reports one employee at each of its Scott and Ross townships, and McKeesport facilities are infected with coronavirus.
The Glen Hazel outbreak occurred despite protective measures that have been in place for more than a month. Residents of all four Kane facilities are not allowed to have visitors, and there are no longer communal meals, group outings or activities.
Dr. Mario Fatigati, Kane’s chief medical officer, said because a person can be asymptomatic with coronavirus for days, Glen Hazel staff are functioning under the assumption that anyone could have the virus.
“This thing is daunting,” he said. “There are no symptoms and you can have it. I can’t emphasize how hard that makes it to figure out where you’re at.”
Though the Glen Hazel outbreak is particularly bad, nursing home and personal care residences around the state and country have struggled with COVID-19. More than half of Pennsylvania’s COVID deaths are residents of long-term care facilities.
In addition to the communal nature of life there, people who live in nursing homes often need physical assistance to get dressed, eat and use the bathroom. This close contact increases the odds of the virus rapidly spreading to residents, who tend to be elderly, medically frail or both.
In addition to limits on residents’ daily life, upon reporting for work Kane employees have their temperatures taken and answer screening questions about possible coronavirus exposure. They then don a mask and other protective equipment, before going to their assigned units.
“We try to keep the staff on the same floor from day-to-day. We don’t want staff moving from unit to unit,” said Kane’s executive director Dennis Biondo.
Kane is owned by Allegheny County, which provides frequent updates on the number of staff and residents infected with coronavirus.
According to the state, there are 15 other long-term care facilities in the county that have at least one COVID case. Allegheny County’s website lists a total of 61 nursing homes. Including the four Kane fatalities, state data show there have been at least 30 COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes or personal care facilities in the county.
These privately owned, state-licensed residences for elderly and medically vulnerable people have disclosed little to no information, and the state will not reveal which facilities have experienced COVID infections.