coronavirus pandemic

Aid Runs Low for Key Pennsylvania Virus Containment Program

State officials say without federal funding this year, they will deploy a scaled-down version of a program to respond to nursing home outbreaks of the coronavirus. This means fewer support staff would be sent to the homes and they would stay for shorter periods.

Nursing Home Berks County Pennsylvania Leesport

Wolf administration officials said Wednesday that Pennsylvania does not have the money to maintain a key feature of its response to coronavirus outbreaks in the state's nursing homes, and are working to retain a short-term, scaled-down model now that federal funding has run out.

Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller told reporters that Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is running a scaled-down version of a program that distributed $175 million in federal coronavirus aid to 11 regional health systems or health organizations to help contain outbreaks in nursing homes.

Miller said the partnership had helped save lives in the state's roughly 2,000 long-term care facilities, and that Wolf's administration will keep asking the federal government for more money to continue the program.

In the meantime, the state is setting aside $6 million for January and $6 million for February, in hopes that 75% of it will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to maintain rapid response services through Feb. 28 and another $28 million over the coming months to support testing, officials said.

One key difference will be the duration and size of a response involving staffing support, said Keara Klinepeter, a Department of Health official.

Fewer support staff would be deployed and they would stay for three to five days, rather than periods of more like two weeks under the federally funded program, Klinepeter said.

More than 740,000 people have tested positive in Pennsylvania and more than 18,400 have died, including almost 10,000 in long-term care facilities, according to state data.

Another 349 coronavirus-related deaths were reported statewide Wednesday by the Department of Health, among the state's highest one-day totals reported during the pandemic. Pennsylvania's seven-day average of deaths is above 215, and this week hit its highest point in the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The numbers of coronavirus patients in hospitals and intensive care units are dropping, according to state figures.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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