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Universal Testing Complete At PA Nursing Homes

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A biohazard bag at a COVID-19 test site in Pittsburgh's Greenfield neighborhood.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Thursday that all skilled nursing facilities have now complied with a state order to test all staff and residents for COVID-19.

Under the state mandate — released June 8 — the universal testing had to be completed at all 693 facilities in the state by July 24. 

There are approximately 84,000 state residents living in long-term care facilities. 

“Our goal was to rapidly detect asymptomatic positive residents and staff to prevent further spread. By completing universal testing, facilities are one step closer to achieving all of the goals set out to achieve safe visitation, communal dining and activities,” said Levine during an afternoon news conference. 

It’s unclear when those things may safely resume at those facilities. Levine advised people to consult directly with the nursing home where their loved one lives. 

The state’s Health Department is working on retesting protocols for nursing homes.

“We’ll have individualized testing protocols, but they’re gonna have to continue to retest. It’s not a one-time thing,” said Levine. 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Pennsylvania has reported more than 100,000 positive cases of COVID-19 across all 67 counties.  

More than 7,000 residents have died from the highly-contagious respiratory virus. As of July 17, the latest date for which statistics are available, roughly 40% of the state’s death toll has been among nursing home residents. 

Levine urged all residents to continue wearing face masks whenever they leave the house and follow social-distancing and hand-washing protocols. 

“The prevalence of COVID-19 in our nursing homes is directly related to the prevalence of COVID-19 in the communities in which they are located. The more the virus is spreading in the community, the more likely it is that one of our heroic health care workers at a nursing home may contract the virus and unknowingly spread it,” she said.