The National Guard is assisting a Delaware County nursing home where nearly 50 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Broomall Rehabilitation Nursing Center, a 298-bed facility in Marple Township with 49 COVID-19 cases, requested help from the Pennsylvania National Guard Medical Team to provide support for staff. The team is made up of 18 military nurses and medics.
“We are incredibly thankful for and have been impressed with their proactive and timely response,” a spokesperson for the nursing home wrote. “The National Guard has committed 18 personnel in total that will be on site at the Center seven days a week over the next four weeks. Twelve Army medics and six Air Force nurses will work in 12-hour shifts with six medics and three nurses working each shift.”
On Saturday, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine also confirmed there were members of the National Guard's Medical Support Arm at a "number" of nursing homes throughout the state to help with infection control and care for patients.
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Long-term care facilities across the nation have experienced a high number of COVID-19 cases. Statewide, 462 of Pennsylvania’s 836 coronavirus-related deaths, or 55 percent, have been among residents of nursing homes or personal care facilities, according to Dr. Levine.
At least 3,290 nursing home residents in Pennsylvania, as well as 394 workers have contracted the virus, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. But even those numbers are on the low end; Philadelphia and Montgomery County, for example, have reported far more nursing home deaths than are on the official state count.
In New Jersey, meanwhile, the crisis in nursing homes was recently laid bare when police found 17 bodies at a Sussex County facility. “Long-term care facilities, not just in New Jersey but … around the country have really turned out to be a weak link in the armor against this awful virus,” Gov. Phil Murphy told NBC10.
Dr. Joshua Uy, a geriatrician and associate professor of clinical medicine at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, said that while underlying health problems certainly contribute to COVID-19’s severity among older people, a lack of personal protective equipment and the unavoidable close contact that happens within nursing homes have compounded the issue.