Belle Reve accounts for nearly half of Pike’s COVID-19 deaths

Milford. State reports 8 deaths, 40 cases at Belle Reve facilities, according to data released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health after weeks of pressure.

27 May 2020 | 10:44

Eight people associated with Belle Reve Assisted Living Center in Milford have died of COVID-19, according to data released last week by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases at Belle Reve Assisted Living Center is 25 residents and in-patients, plus 5 employees, according to the data. At Belle Reve Health Care Center, there are 10 coronavirus cases among patients and residents, with the number of deaths and employee cases less than five.

Belle Reve accounts for nearly half of the 18 deaths reported so far in Pike County. The totals released by the state do not specify how many of those who died were employees or how many were residents.
The department of health says the intention of the data is “to identify locations that may have cases associated with them and potentially need public health support.”

Alliance Senior Home in Matamoras has seen fewer than five cases of coronavirus among residents, with no employee infections and no deaths.

After weeks of delay, state health officials on May 19 released a list of 557 long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania reporting cases of the coronavirus among residents or staff. Health department officials said they were weighing the public’s right to know against patient privacy and the dictates of state law, and so held back some information, redacting data from facilities reporting 1 to 4 infections or deaths.

Health officials had been under mounting pressure to name long-term care facilities with virus cases, with the state’s chief fiscal watchdog, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, urging greater transparency.

Two-thirds of PA deaths at nursing homes

Nursing homes and personal care homes have struggled for months to contain the virus, with residents of the facilities accounting for more than two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s overall death toll of 4,624 -- a higher proportion than in most other states.

Nearly 50 Pennsylvania nursing homes have reported 20 or more deaths related to COVID-19, according to the health department data released last week.

The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf has faced criticism that it didn’t do enough, soon enough, to keep the virus from spreading among some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents.

“There is no question, in Pennsylvania and all across the world, long-term care facilities have been places where this virus has wreaked absolute havoc. And we keep trying to figure out what we can do better as we move along in this pandemic,” Wolf said at a video news conference. “I think in hindsight there are a lot of things that maybe we’ll learn, and I hope we do, that we can do better.”

Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has opened criminal investigations into several nursing homes. The attorney general’s office has not said how many facilities it is investigating, or revealed their names or provided any other details about the specific allegations. In general, the attorney general’s office has jurisdiction in manners of criminal neglect.

The state’s worst nursing home outbreak -- and one of the worst nationally -- is at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County, near the Ohio border, where 358 residents and 25 workers have contracted the virus, and 76 have died. Most of the other homes reporting 20 or more deaths are clustered in the eastern half of the state, where the virus has been more prevalent in the population as a whole.

Public health officials say nursing homes largely lacked the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment to contain outbreaks. Wolf in March ordered all visitation to nursing homes stopped. Still, the Wolf administration has faced criticism that it fueled the outbreak in nursing homes by allowing coronavirus-positive nursing home residents to be readmitted from the hospital. However, guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never discouraged such a practice, and advised nursing homes to create a plan for managing readmissions of residents who contracted the virus and admissions of new residents who were infected. Nursing homes were told to place those residents in a single-person room or in a separate observation area to be monitored for evidence of the virus.

The practice of admitting virus-positive patients to nursing homes appeared to be routine across states. A national nursing home trade group, the American Health Care Association, advised nursing homes in March to create separate wings, units or floors to handle admissions from the hospital. It said that discharging infected residents from hospitals to nursing homes that could not create separate units, equipment and staff is a “recipe for disaster.’’

The American Health Care Association also asked states and public health officials to explore asking nursing homes to clear out entire facilities and designate them for infected residents being discharged from hospitals. Only two states did, according to the group: Massachusetts and Connecticut. Meanwhile, only one state, Louisiana, barred nursing homes from taking readmissions or new admissions who were infected, it said.

The Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this article.

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