Harrisburg, Pa – Advocates and residents’ relatives have criticized state and federal officials, as well as some nursing homes, for failing to address the crisis as deaths mounted. The fact that the elderly and nursing homes were at high risk was publicized by the New York Times as early as March 4, 2020.
In Pennsylvania, about 65% of COVID-19 deaths were nursing-home residents, and in counties in the hardest hit southeastern part of the state, long-term care residents account for as much as 80% of county deaths. Most of the patients hospitalized are aged 65 or older, and most of the deaths have occurred in patients 65 or older. There have been no pediatric deaths.
USA Today covered the situation in Italy on March 20, 2020, asking, “Were elderly Italians left to die? And is socialized health care to blame?”
As nursing home deaths continue to rise in Pennsylvania, as reported by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine directed licensed long-term care facilities to continue admitting new patients, including those discharged from hospitals, and to readmit current patients after hospital stays.
When asked if the Department of Health is going to release specifics, including the names, of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities that have coronavirus cases, Dr. Levine said the department plans to make a decision this week. Some elected officials and many Pennsylvania residents have pushed for this information, but Levine said it’s a matter of balancing patient confidentiality and laws and regulations that govern the release of data vs. the public’s right to know.
Dr. Levine again was asked about discrepancies in death counties between counties and the state numbers. Philadelphia is reporting 726 deaths and 16,040 coronavirus cases on Monday, while the state numbers show 424 deaths and 13,316 cases. Levine said Philadelphia uses a different data system, and it takes time to reconcile those figures with the state system.
A joint letter released Monday afternoon from General Assembly members says new cases reported are showing fewer signs of community spread outside of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Without those cases counted, the economy could open sooner, the lawmakers said.
The letter, signed by the Republican state House and Senate members serving parts of Bucks County, asks the state not count infections and deaths among nursing home residents and staff as it considers reopening more counties in the future.
“In our county, we are seeing a high percentage of deaths, and even hospitalizations, that are attributed to COVID-19 are also associated with occupants of long-term care facilities,” the lawmakers’ letter reads.
The mismanagement led to more lost lives, and more wasted taxpayer money.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman appears to be celebrating the death count, similar to the tattooed dates of Braddock murder victims on his forearm.
Dr. Levine took time explain transphobia when asked a pre-selected media question on Monday. Levine is one of the highest-ranking transgender officials in the United States.
In a prepared statement, Levine said, “I realize at times like this, it’s very stressful, people sometimes say things they wouldn’t otherwise say or mean. But what I’m going to do is stay laser-focused on helping Pennsylvania through this global pandemic and assisting the governor and the governor’s office.”