“Ah… I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to there.” PA Gov. Tom Wolf when asked about his ordering assisted living homes to accept COVID positive residents.
September 28, 2020 PA Gov. Wolf Press Conference
Reporter: Thank you Governor. Going back to the events on Saturday, yourself and and also Vice-President Biden put out pretty scathing remarks about President Trump and the administration about the loss of life over 200,000 deaths in America, 8,000 I mean it’s 8,100 now in Pennsylvania. Is it fair to lay at the feet of the Trump administration the loss of life in the elder care and assisted living homes when your administration sent seniors back in there during the COVID crisis?
Wolf: “Ah… I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to there.”
He’s a Democrat but he retired so he can now can speak the truth: Andrew Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat who retired last month from the state Senate after more than 14 years, said the data shows “we should have focused our concern on where the most deaths were taking place, which was senior homes and long-term care facilities, instead of restaurants and businesses.”
…ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals — actions that have been criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus – “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”
Pennsylvania’s Health Secretary Rachel Levine moved his 95-year-old mother from a nursing home during the coronavirus pandemic despite his department’s guidance instructing nursing homes to readmit “stable” patients who contracted the coronavirus — a move critics say led to the stark reality of most virus deaths in the state stemming from those facilities.
Gov. Tom Wolf defends Health Secretary… “My assessment of Dr. Levine is that she is doing a phenomenal job.”
By Ford Turner -The Morning Call | Dec 14, 2020 at 7:18 PM
Six of the 10 long-term care facilities with the most COVID-19 deaths nationwide are in Pennsylvania, including two in the Lehigh Valley, according to data recently updated by the New York Times.
The Times — which first published the data earlier in the year and is refreshing numbers on its website as they are confirmed with state, county and facility officials — last updated the report Dec. 4.
It shows the Lehigh Valley’s two county-run facilities, Lehigh County’s Cedarbrook in South Whitehall Township and Northampton County’s Gracedale in Upper Nazareth Township, are on the national list. The nursing homes, both among the largest in the state, have had 81 and 76 deaths, respectively, since the pandemic began.
State Health Department officials attributed the outbreaks at facilities around the state to a direct link — in terms of the virus — between what is happening in a community and in a facility in that community. But current and former state senators said the data shows Pennsylvania made mistakes in its efforts to control virus spread.
Democratic state Sen. Lisa Boscola of Northampton County said the state should not have ordered nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients.
“We have known for some time that the results are devastating when COVID gets into nursing homes,” Boscola said. “Clearly one of the biggest mistakes made at the outset of this pandemic was sending COVID-positive people back into these facilities.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department sent letters to the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Michigan, seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals — actions that have been criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus.
Prosecutors said the fact-finding letters were aimed at determining whether the orders “may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for an update on the case Monday.
Republican state Sen. Mario Scavello of Monroe County said the data did not surprise him.
”They did not protect the nursing homes, but not only that, they also put COVID patients into the nursing homes,” Scavello said.
Andrew Dinniman, a Chester County Democrat who retired last month from the state Senate after more than 14 years, said the data shows “we should have focused our concern on where the most deaths were taking place, which was senior homes and long-term care facilities, instead of restaurants and businesses.”
The latest Pennsylvania data on long-term care facility deaths indicates the same number of deaths as the New York Times data for four of the facilities among the 10 with the most deaths.
For a fifth facility, the Pennsylvania data shows one more death than the Times data.
Those five are Fair Acres Geriatric Center in Delaware County with 95 deaths, currently ranked at the top of the New York Times’ national list; Cedarbrook with 81 deaths; Conestoga View Nursing & Rehabilitation in Lancaster County with 77 deaths; Gracedale with 76 deaths; and Brighton Rehabilitation & Wellness in Beaver County with 73 deaths.
The death total for the sixth Pennsylvania facility among the 10 ranked highest by the Times was far different than the total in the state’s latest data.
State data also shows Cedarbrook’s campus in Fountain Hill has logged 24 deaths.
Slightly less than 60% of the state’s 12,620 COVID-19-related deaths have been at long-term care facilities. For the Lehigh Valley, the figure is about 75%.
Jennifer Stewart-King, administrator at Gracedale, noted the 688-bed facility is the largest under one roof in the state. And, she said, many of deaths attributed to the virus early on were among people already dying from other causes.
As was the case at Gracedale, many COVID-19 deaths at Cedarbrook involved people who “were in fact in the end stages of other disease processes,” Cumello said.
Those patients, Stewart-King said, are more challenged by the disease. She said they often do not cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze, they may refuse to wear a mask, and attempts to keep them behind a plastic barrier may fail.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Morning Call Capitol correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ford Turner The Morning Call
Ford Turner is Capitol correspondent and an investigative reporter for The Morning Call in Harrisburg. He has worked at news outlets in other states, but much of his career has been spent in Pennsylvania.