State releases nursing home data but did it react too slowly to Coronavirus dangers?”

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HARRISBURG, Pa, (WHTM) — Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania nursing homes and long-term care facilities don’t have a single case of Covid-19.

But the 558 facilities across the state that do, have been publicly named. The Department of Health, for the first time, is releasing names and numbers of cases and deaths. It’s on the department’s website and the secretary says the numbers will be updated daily.

Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center in Allegheny County is the worst of the bunch with nearly 400 confirmed cases among residents and staff and, sadly, 76 deaths.

“It’s deplorable. It’s a  tragedy that didn’t need to be. It’s a  disgrace,” said Brent Boyer, a Millersburg Borough Councilman in Dauphin County, who had a local facility on the list.

Boyer was not surprised to learn that Premier at Susquehanna Nursing and Rehab had 60 positives and a few deaths. For weeks, Boyer says he’s seen alarming social media posts of family members and employees decrying conditions inside the facility. He raised alarms, he said, with the county and state that went mostly unheeded.

“Do something about it,” Boyer said forcefully of the nursing home deaths, which account for nearly 70-percent of Coronavirus fatalities in PA. “Having rope don’t make you a cowboy. You need to do something. You need to take action and bureaucrats aren’t going to win this war.”

Dr. Rachel Levine, PA Health Secretary, was asked if the state has done enough to protect the vulnerable senior population.

“We have been reacting from the very beginning,” Levine said. She insists she understood the dangers early on but protecting seniors during a pandemic is not just a Pennsylvania problem but a global problem.

“We’re continuing to evolve our strategy and again do everything we can to protect them.”

But more is needed, according to Adam Marles, President and CEO of LeadingAge PA, a senior living advocacy group.

“There still doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive plan in place to make sure we deal with the problem effectively,” Marles said. “We still don’t have enough personal protection equipment, we still don’t have enough testing and we still don’t have enough funding from the state.”

We asked Governor Tom Wolf if the state was too slow to understand the peril in personal care facilities and too slow to react to it?

“There are a lot of things that maybe we’ll learn,” Wolf said. “And I hope we do that. We can do better,” Wolf said.

“No disrespect to the governor but we’re gonna learn about it?” Boyer asked. “What are these people lab rats? We don’t have time to learn about it. I mean you gotta learn quick in a crisis situation.”

The nursing home saga is still evolving and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Attorney General Josh Shapiro is investigating for possible criminal wrongdoing and Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA 10) called for a federal investigation.

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