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2020 News

Feds Issue COVID Info Rules for Nursing Homes; 11 More Deaths in Bucks

April 20, 2020

Contact: Larry R. King, 215-348-6413, lrking@buckscounty.org

As coronavirus-related deaths among nursing home residents continued to increase in Bucks County and elsewhere, the federal government today announced new transparency rules requiring facilities to tell residents and their families of new COVID-19 cases in their midst.

The requirements, issued by the Department of Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, direct nursing homes to inform facility residents and their representatives within 12 hours of a single confirmed case of COVID-19. They must also disclose it when three or more residents or staff experience new onset of respiratory symptoms within a 72-hour period.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19. Today’s action supports CMS’ longstanding commitment to providing transparent and timely information to residents and their families,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

The notifications must include information about what steps the nursing home is taking to prevent or reduce the spread of the virus. Failure to meet the requirements could result in enforcement actions taken against the nursing home. A memo describing the order can be viewed here: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/qso-20-26-nh.pdf

The Bucks County Health Department today reported 11 more deaths among residents who have tested positive for COVID-19: five women ages 93, 93, 90, 89 and 72; and six men ages 94, 90, 90, 66, 66 and 65. Almost all were residents of long-term care facilities.

“To those of you who have lost anyone to this virus, please know that my thoughts are with you,” said County Commissioners’ Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia during a virtual town hall conducted this morning by the commissioners on Facebook. “And to those of you with family members in long-term care facilities, which is where this virus seems to be hitting the hardest, I want you to know that we are thinking of you, too.”

Marseglia said her mother, whose birthday is today, is a resident at Neshaminy Manor and cannot communicate with her. “So the way I’m going to celebrate her birthday is to send prayers and positive energy to everyone – the people and the workers in our long-term care facilities,” she said. “This is a difficult time; they are the front line right now.”

Gov. Tom Wolf, meanwhile, announced that he is extending the statewide stay-at-home order issued April 1 by at least one week, to Friday, May 8. The order had been set to expire on April 30.

“It is clear that our early and aggressive efforts to mitigate the spread of this highly contagious and deadly virus are working,” Wolf said. “While we begin to seek ways to move forward, it’s imperative that we continue to take strong precautions to protect Pennsylvanians and ensure that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed.”

At the same time, Wolf signaled that a gradual reopening of the economy could ensue in areas not severely affected by the outbreak. He signed an online-notary bill that will help enable online vehicle sales and said that limited construction work may resume on May 8, adding that opening other industry sectors is also possible.

“We are taking small steps toward regaining a degree of normalcy in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said as an anti-shutdown rally drew protesters to the state capitol grounds in Harrisburg.

The state Department of Health reported 948 new COVID-19 cases today, the first time that daily number has dipped below 1,000 since April 1. A total of 33,232 Pennsylvanians have tested positive for coronavirus and 1,204 have died, well over half of them residents of nursing or personal care facilities.

“As we start to see the number of new COVID-19 cases decrease across the state, that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community.”

Bucks County’s new cases increased by 92, for a total of 1,977. Of those, 162 patients are hospitalized, 26 of them in critical condition and on ventilators, and 373 have recovered.

Statistics, charts and other coronavirus-related information can be found on the county’s data portal: https://covid19-bucksgis.hub.arcgis.com