PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Over the course of this pandemic, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have become deadly contagions and increasingly the state health department is being called to task for inaction as the death toll continues to climb.
There are two key developments that broke late today. The state’s top doctor, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, announced universal testing for nursing homes. And the state’s attorney general has opened criminal investigations into several homes.
At Kane Glen Hazel, 16 residents have died of the virus and more than 100 have tested positive. It’s a situation that played out across the state and we set out to find why more wasn’t done.
“This is our most vulnerable population. They have nowhere else to go. Government needs to step in. Government needs to step in and do the right thing. And I think the government has failed,” said Pa. Rep. Rob Matzie, a Democrat from Washington County.
In our region, nursing home residents account for more than 80 percent of the total COVID-19 deaths.
In Allegheny County, nursing home residents are 97 of the 127 COVID-19 fatalities.
And in Beaver County, Brighton Rehab accounts for 71 of the total 78.
In Westmoreland County, 27 out of 30 COVID-19 deaths involved nursing home residents.
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State Rep. Rob Matzie says once the virus took hold in these facilities, the state should have tested all residents and staff and quarantined the infected in separate facilities.
But he says the department still hasn’t done this and he’s sponsored legislation to require it.
“Shame on those folks and shame on the fact that you have to threaten legislation and put it in statute to force the hand to do inspections and to test patients and staff to ensure that everything’s being done correctly to protect the people who reside in these facilities,” Matzie said.
The health department has said it doesn’t have sufficient capacity to test all residents and staff but late Tuesday at a press conference, Dr. Levine announced a plan to conduct universal testing at all nursing homes in an effort to isolate and contain the virus.
“This strategy focused on ensuring that testing is accessible, available and adaptable to the evolving landscape of this virus,” Levine said.