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Wolf orders all long-term care providers to test staff and residents for COVID-19

All long-term care providers in the state, including nursing, personal care and assisted living facilities, are required to complete initial COVID-19 baseline testing on all staff and residents by July 24, according to a new order issued by the Wolf administration.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is expanding testing to find any long-term care residents who could be carrying the virus, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement on Monday.

“We are working tirelessly to include all long-term care facilities in this strategy as soon as possible,” Levine said. “At this point, we are able to successfully expand testing and support to all staff and residents to further protect those in nursing homes across Pennsylvania.”

The state’s order mirrors a similar recommendation released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) late last month.

In its recommendation, the federal department asked for nursing homes across the country to halt all plans to reopen or relax any restrictions until all residents and staff have received a baseline test to establish that no known cases of the virus are in the facility.

Facilities in Pennsylvania will also be asked to continue weekly testing of all residents and staff for at least 14 days since their most recent positive result.

Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, a senior housing trade association based in Mechanicsburg, commended the department for releasing guidance on mandated testing, but noted that he plan does not appear to provide guidance on how facilities will secure the testing.

“The Emergency CARES Act funding approved last week provides relief for the costs long-term care facilities already incurred during the pandemic, but as new positive cases are confirmed through universal testing, the need for additional resources will grow,” Marles said. “Staff replacement and additional costs for care for newly-identified positive cases will create a significant strain on providers.”

The order does not specify if there will be a penalty for facilities that do not test their staff or residents by July 24.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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