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Immediate testing at nursing homes overdue

Once the grim tally of deaths from COVID-19 is finalized — sometime later this year, we hope — there is little doubt it will be clear that nursing homes are the coronavirus’ favored killing grounds.

To most public health leaders, that already is obvious.

In some states, most of the epidemic’s victims have been in long-term care facilities.

We know already that mistakes were made in how nursing home patients were handled.

New York was a leading offender.

There, according to The Associated Press, more than 4,500 people recovering from COVID-19 after hospital stays were sent to nursing homes.

How many new cases that resulted in can only be speculated, though the number must have been enormous.

It is for New Yorkers to determine whether alternatives were available.

Some argue there was no alternative in view of the state’s overtaxed hospitals and other health care facilities.

Some governors recognized the threat in time to save lives.

Three weeks ago, President Donald Trump urged that staff members and residents in all nursing homes should be tested for COVID-19.

As The Associated Press reports, at least half the states will not — in the short-term — be able to accomplish the president’s desire that staff members and residents in ALL nursing homes nationwide be tested.

Pennsylvania plans to test every resident and every employee in all long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, for coronavirus. Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine this week said, “We will have to continue (testing at nursing homes) until we have a vaccine for COVID-19.”

COVID-19 has killed more than 5,700 people in Pennsylvania, and about 60% of those deaths were linked to these facilities.

There are over 1,900 long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania so testing all of the residents and all of the staffs will be a significant project.

The state Department of Health said it has found that the virus was brought into long-term care facilities by asymptomatic individuals.

By testing nursing home staff and visitors, it should be possible to if they have COVID-19, to isolate them and protect residents and the communities at large.

Across the state, including at Manor Care in Jersey Shore — where at last count approximately 17 people have died from the virus –the state needs to investigate how residents became infected, causing so much misery. Meanwhile, COVID-19 seems to be winding down in some areas.

It remains a serious threat to older people, however. States where testing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities has not been completed should redouble efforts to do so.

Hundreds, even thousands of lives could be saved.

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