New partnership to help COVID-19 testing in Pa. nursing homes

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today announced a partnership with CVS Health to assist with nursing home facility testing as part of the state’s COVID-19 response.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) are partnering with CVS Health to offer COVID-19 testing services to skilled nursing facilities statewide, free of charge. This is in order to make sure facilities are compliant with Secretary Levine’s universal testing order issued June 9, 2020.

“We are so pleased to have this level of collaboration and assistance from CVS Health,” Dr. Levine said. “COVID-19 is a particularly challenging situation for congregate settings, particularly our nursing home facilities. This partnership strengthens and increases access to ensure universal testing is completed in nursing homes, as required in the order issued earlier this month. It will provide us the opportunity to better address outbreaks and work to prevent future outbreaks in nursing home facilities. These teams are assisting us in our response in the hardest-hit areas as we work to protect the public health and safety of Pennsylvanians.”

Omnicare, a CVS Health company, will administer up to 50,000 tests for skilled nursing residents and staff members beginning the week of June 29. The department will roll out a three-tiered priority list for testing beginning with facilities with new or ongoing outbreaks, then to facilities with a history of a resolved outbreak and finishing with facilities with no outbreaks.

“At Omnicare, we are dedicated to providing outstanding service to our long-term care customers and their patients. Our COVID-19 testing solutions are a prime example of our capabilities, and a critical component of our broader response to the pandemic,” said Jim Love, President of Omnicare. “We are pleased to partner with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to increase access and availability to testing for these critically important long-term care facilities and their vulnerable patient populations.”

Through the work of a number of entities, testing is accessible for Pennsylvanians through a variety of locations. Adding CVS Health, Patient First, Rite Aid, Walmart and other testing sites for symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals through select retail locations across the state has further allowed for Pennsylvanians to get tested close to home. Adding these locations to those already offered by hospitals, health systems, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), health clinics and other locations significantly expands the testing network in the state.

More information about Pennsylvania’s testing sites, including a map of the sites available in Pennsylvania, is listed on the department’s website

The department’s testing plan has remained adaptable. This includes the efforts to ensure everyone in a long-term care facility can be tested, work to ensure counties that currently do not have testing locations can receive them, and other efforts based on the latest data and science surrounding COVID-19.

According to figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania added 579 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday. The state has 83,770 cases of the virus since the first case was discovered in March.

The death toll was increased by 39 souls on Wednesday, putting the count at 6,557.

Dauphin County added 29 new cases and four deaths to their totals, while Schuylkill County added nine new cases and Northumberland County added three new cases. The current counts of cases in the three counties of the Citizen-Standard coverage area stands with Dauphin County at a total to 1,893 cases with 131 deaths, Schuylkill stands at 730 cases with 43 deaths, and Northumberland County is at 284 cases and five deaths.

In comparison, Philadelphia County, the hot spot of the state, added 123 cases and seven deaths on Tuesday, putting their totals at 21,072 positive cases and 1,583 deaths since the coronavirus first hit in March..

Officials say that the public’s effort to fight and prevent the spread of the disease must continue.

“As we move closer to having the entire state in the green phase, we must remain committed to protecting against COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Pennsylvania has been a model for the country on how to reopen effectively using a careful, measured approach. However, the virus has not gone away. Each of us has a responsibility to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently. Together we can protect our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians, our essential workers and our healthcare system.”

As far as negative tests for each county, Dauphin is listed as having 16,546 negative tests while Schuylkill reported 7,346 negative tests and 2,835 in Northumberland County.

Currently 702 Pennsylvania residents are hospitalized with the virus and its complications, down 12 from Wednesday.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 17,454 resident cases of COVID-19, and 3,123 cases among employees, for a total of 20,577 at 676 distinct facilities in 50 counties. Out of our total deaths, 4,471 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities. Approximately 6,341 of our total cases are in health care workers.

The counties affected and the number of confirmed cases, with the number of deaths in parentheses, are:

Adams-323 (12), Allegheny-2,321 (182), Armstrong-70 (6), Beaver-637 (78), Bedford-72 (3), Berks-4,461 (348), Blair-69 (1), Bradford-51 (3), Bucks-5,649 (560), Butler-280 (13), Cambria- 64 (3), Cameron-2, Carbon-271 (25), Centre-197 (6), Chester-3,578 (321), Clarion-33 (2), Clearfield-71, Clinton-74 (4), Columbia-399 (33), Crawford-50, Cumberland-825 (63), Dauphin-1,893 (131), Delaware-7,095 (648), Elk-10, Erie-559 (9), Fayette-104 (4), Forest-7, Franklin-900 (42), Fulton-18 (1), Greene-35, Huntingdon-242 (4), Indiana-101 (6), Jefferson-21 (1), Juniata-109 (6), Lackawanna-1,648 (202), Lancaster-4,212 (354), Lawrence-99 (9), Lebanon-1,291 (43), Lehigh-4,164 (285), Luzerne-2,883 (174), Lycoming-176 (19), McKean-15 (1), Mercer-126 (6), Mifflin-61 (1), Monroe-1,388 (109), Montgomery-8,244 (792), Montour-68, Northampton-3,352 (262), Northumberland-284 (5), Perry-85 (5), Philadelphia-21,072 (1,583), Pike-489 (20), Potter-14, Schuylkill-730 (43), Snyder-61 (2), Somerset-52 (1), Sullivan-3, Susquehanna-178 (22), Tioga-23 (2), Union-89 (2), Venango-17, Warren-5, Washington-184 (6), Wayne-133 (9), Westmoreland-578 (38), Wyoming-37 (7), York-1,418 (41).

As of midnight June 25, there have been 621,031 negative tests for the coronavirus. The state also said that 78 percent of the confirmed cases have recovered. If a case has not been reported as a death, and it is more than 30 days past the date of their first positive test (or onset of symptoms) then an individual is considered recovered.

The two stages of reopening and the counties that are in them are:

Yellow counties — Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie,  Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Sullivan, and Susquehanna. (All but Lebanon moves to green on Friday, June 26).

Green counties — Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Elk, Fayette, Forest, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne,Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.

What is coronavirus?

According to the Pa. Department of Health, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. These viruses can live in animals and at times, evolve and infect people before spreading through human to human contact.

Human coronaviruses are spread just like the common cold or the flu either through the air through coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object or surface with the virus on it.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms can appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after a person is exposed to the illness. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to severe illness and death. As of June 24, the U.S. Center for Disease Control reports there have been 2,336,615 cases of the Coronavirus reported in the U.S. with 121,117 deaths.

What can you do?

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
Clean surfaces frequently.
Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
If you must go out for a life-sustaining reason, please wear a mask.
The Pa. Department of Health offers these guidelines as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Stay home as much as possible. Try to get groceries once per week instead of daily. Freedom of travel remains, but please refrain from non-essential travel. Essential travel includes things like commuting to an essential job, picking up supplies like groceries and medicine, and checking on family and pets in other households. Do not host or attend gatherings.