Nursing homes in the Pittsburgh region are quickly becoming hotspots for novel coronavirus outbreaks. Because of residents’ age, other underlying health conditions and close living quarters, residents at these facilities are particularly at risk of greater transmission and more severe effects of the virus.
At least 38 residents at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the most recent numbers provided by the facility last Thursday. St. Barnabus Nursing Home in Gibsonia has at least 18 residents currently infected, and has had two deaths, according to the Tribune-Review. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
At Kane Community Living Center in Glen Hazel, 18 residents and 13 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility, and three other Kane Centers in Ross Township, McKeesport and Scott Township are run by Allegheny County. County Controller Chelsa Wagner is calling on county and Kane Center leadership to release more information about prevention and containment efforts at the facilities.
In an April 7 letter to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, County Manager William McKain and Kane Centers Executive Dennis Biondo, Wagner wrote that her office had “received extremely concerning reports from Kane Centers employees that common-sense precautions against spread of the virus are not being followed.”
Wagner said staff had told her that high-touch areas were not being regularly cleaned, employees are unable to socially distance and that non-essential employees, such as hairdressers, are still coming to work.
The controller went on to pose a series of questions about staffing, sanitization, testing and social distancing measures in place at the facilities, and requested that Fitzgerald, McKain and Biondo answer the questions publicly.
“This letter (and the related press release) is insulting, unproductive and unconscionable,” said county spokesperson Amie Downs in an e-mail. “We are in the middle of a crisis here and focused on doing everything we can to make sure that our residents and staff are safe.”
Downs said both the county and Kane Centers have “all hands on deck” to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, but did not immediately say whether the allegations in Wagner’s letter are true.
On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced it had contracted with non-profit health services research organization ECRI to provide support for assisted living facilities, including nursing homes. The announcement came less than a week after state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that the department is investigating outbreaks at long-term care facilities, including contact tracing. Levine declined to comment on any specific outbreak.