The Pennsylvania Department of Health will require nursing homes across the state to begin reporting the number of novel coronavirus cases and deaths in their facilities by May 17.
Nursing homes will also be required to report the status of testing for COVID-19, health department spokeswoman Maggi Mumma said. The information gleaned about each nursing home will be released to the public, but it is unclear exactly when that may happen.
“The question to release the data is one that has been significantly weighed as we are always working to ensure we protect the right to privacy of Pennsylvanians, including our most vulnerable,” Mumma said.
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Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine emphasized Wednesday that it will be important to conduct various rounds of testing within each facility.
“Of course, if you test once, that’s not conclusive because you could be negative one day and positive another,” Levine said, adding that the number of re-tests will depend on the number of patients at each individual facility.
The May 17 target date comes a day after Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans for aggressive testing of both patients and workers at all nursing homes in the state.
Nursing homes have been especially affected by the coronavirus, in part due to housing older populations with underlying medical conditions, as well as the unavoidable close contact that happens in such facilities.
The state health department has reported at least 12,408 cases of COVID-19 among residents of long-term care facilities – as well as 1,806 among employees – as of May 13. At least 2,705 people at these facilities have died.
However, the official state numbers likely underestimate the actual number of cases. Philadelphia, for example, reported at least 2,672 infections in nursing homes – nearly 1,100 more than what is on the state tally.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro also announced on Tuesday that his office is investigating some nursing homes for criminal neglect.
“We will hold nursing facilities and caretakers criminally accountable if they fail to properly provide care to our loved ones,” Shapiro said in a statement. “While we salute and appreciate nursing home staff on the front lines during this pandemic, we will not tolerate those who mistreat our seniors and break the law.”