New guidance for coronavirus in skilled nursing facilities released

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been well documented how nursing homes have been so vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis.

Today, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced new guidance for nursing homes across the commonwealth.

Much of what Dr. Levine had to say centered on workers at nursing homes who aren’t showing any symptoms but should still be tested for COVID-19.

Dr. Levine believes the key moving forward to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in long term care facilities like nursing homes is testing asymptomatic staff.

“We know that COVID-19 enters a facility through the dedicated and brave and courageous staff who are asymptomatic and through no fault of their own bring it into the facility. And so what we have to do is protect those vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” she said.

Counties with low COVID numbers will require asymptomatic nursing home staff to be tested once every four weeks. Those in counties with moderate coronavirus numbers will test asymptomatic staff once a week. Those nursing home workers with no symptoms in counties with a substantial number of cases will be tested twice a week.

“The prevalence of cases in nursing homes is directly proportional to the prevalence of cases in the county in which they’re located,” said Dr. Levine.

The testing will be done at nursing homes but instead of nasal swabbing, it will be a blood test for antigens to see if a worker is currently infected.

“All of the nursing homes in the state will be receiving the antigen test machines from CMS. Not all at once. There will be a rollout of that and that will improve the ability to do that testing significantly because it’s going to be point-of-care testing and we’ll have the results pretty quickly.”

Another change? Compassionate care-giving. Family and others who have proof of a negative COVID test in the past seven days, pass an on-site screening and wear a mask can be a compassionate caregiver.

“They play really a very important role in improving a resident’s mental, emotional and physical health.”

Dr. Levine also had a long range approach when it comes to COVID-19 that when a vaccine is finally available nursing homes like this need to be a priority.

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