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Middletown Home, Frey Village await guidance on coronavirus testing for residents and employees

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By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

and Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

Pennsylvania will test every resident and employee of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, Gov. Tom Wolf announced last week.

During a telephone press conference May 12, Wolf said: “What we are going to do, which I think is fairly radical, is make sure that we are doing surveillance testing.”

What that means is still being vetted out, according to officials at Middletown Home and Frey Village.

The Home is awaiting clarification from the state as to what the ramped-up testing requirements will mean, CEO Louis Vogel III told the Press & Journal on Friday.

“I don’t have the exact details yet. We just know there will be periodic testing required of staff and residents. The collective goal of everyone is to keep people safe and healthy.”

The Home still did not have any positive cases of the coronavirus among residents and staff as of late Friday afternoon, according to Vogel.

The state’s management of the coronavirus in nursing homes and long-term-care facilities has come under fire.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced last week that over the past several weeks his office has opened criminal investigations into several nursing homes. He did not provide details.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Republican from Franklin County, last week called for the resignation of Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, saying her actions were a major factor in the large number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes.

The state Department of Health has required all nursing homes to provide case, death and testing data starting Sunday.

As of Tuesday, in nursing and personal care homes, there are 13,813 resident cases of COVID-19, and 2,191 cases among employees, for a total of 16,003 at 557 facilities in 44 Pennsylvania counties. Out of the total deaths, 3,145 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities — about 68 percent.

As of Monday in Dauphin County, four nursing homes have reported cases, affecting 258 residents and 51 employees.

The Home has been having testing done by a lab upon the order of a physician. The Home has placed an order of testing supplies  and kits “so we will be able to mobilize that when directed by the Department of Health,” Vogel said. 

The Home has been testing any residents and staff who show symptoms of the virus.

In addition, Vogel said before any new residents are admitted they are tested to confirm they are negative for COVID-19. Then when they are admitted they are placed in a respiratory care area for at least three days to make sure they do not have any symptoms of the virus.

All staff are screened each time they come to work, to include having their temperature taken and vital signs checked to see if they are showing any symptoms, Vogel said.

All common-use areas throughout the Home are being wiped down three times a day. The Home also has a  COVID-19 plan that staff are being drilled on on a regular basis to prepare in case someone does test positive for the virus. If that happens, the plan will become operational within 15 minutes.

Bill Swanger is senior vice president for corporate communications and public relations for Diakon Senior Living Services, which owns Frey Village on North Union Street.

“We are evaluating new Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance, as well as availability of testing and forming an implementation strategy to assist with strengthening our infection-control plans, which will continue to expand testing of residents and staff,” he told the Press & Journal.

As of Tuesday morning, Swanger said there were no cases among staff or residents at Frey Village.

“As before, we test residents and staff who are symptomatic or whom we believe may have had an exposure,” he said.

Swanger said Diakon is continuing to review state publications and work with LeadingAge PA, an association for nonprofit aging services.

“There are numerous reporting requirements, and we continue to comply with all of those,” Swanger said.

Frey has been restricting access since mid-March, along with all of Diakon’s facilities.