Cases of COVID-19 surge in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania nursing homes

LOWER MACUNGIE TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A spokesperson for Genesis Healthcare told Action News on Tuesday that 87 residents and staff have been infected with COVID-19. There are 12 deaths.

The startling numbers come as the federal government finalizes plans to require reporting.

Across the state of Pennsylvania, nursing homes like Genesis Healthcare and Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehabilitation have seen a surge in cases. In all, more than 1,860 cases at more than 230 facilities.

Cedarbrook reported two dozen cases at its two Lehigh Valley locations.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the Lehigh Valley has been hit especially hard.

"Wherever we are seeing community spread, then we expect to see these types of challenges in long-term care facilities," she said Tuesday.

Lehigh County has the third most COVID-19 cases in the state behind Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.

Doug Brown and Black Book Market Research surveyed nearly 900 long-term care providers and their staff in 41 states last week.

He said 96% expressed concern their facilities may no longer be the best place to house elderly patients.

"There is a very big lack of connectedness between doctors, hospitals and nursing homes and they are suffering from that lack of connectedness," he said.

Nursing home providers often use per diem and supplemental staff but might have no idea where that staff has treated other patients and whether they've been possibly exposed to COVID-19. It extends to new residents as well.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services formalized a plan where facilities would report the cases so people can grasp the scope of the problem.

"We are seeing a big complaint with the lack of data sharing, the incomplete records of patients entering facilities and staff," Brown said.

Families said there is also a lack of transparency with some of these nursing home outbreaks. They said they are often learning about the cases in the press.
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