Pa. health officials: Here’s what needs to happen for nursing homes to allow visitors again

Reopening nursing homes: Families will have to wait to see loved ones amid pandemic

Pennsylvania state health officials said all residents and staff at nursing facilities have now been tested for COVID-19, calling it an “essential step” to begin reopening -- which will be a strict process.

“If they had no cases of staff or residents, then they’re gonna progress through that pathway. If they had cases, then they have to go back and retest to make sure that they have no cases,” said Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

Content Continues Below

That could make it tough for families who desperately want to see their loved ones, like Heather Stevens, whose mother is a resident at Belair Nursing Home in Lower Burrell. It recently added a COVID-19 recovery unit, bringing in 24 coronavirus patients from other facilities.

Based on the guidance released by the state, it’s unclear when families will be able to go back inside nursing homes to see their loved ones.

“It’s certainly an in-depth plan. It’s really designed to be read by the facilities rather than the general public, and I think the public should call the facility,” Levine said.

For facilities like Paramount Senior Living in Peter’s Township, which has zero positive cases, a phased reopening is now allowed.

However, no such process can begin for Brighton Rehab in Beaver County. It has more than 400 positive COVID-19 cases, according to the latest data.

“We know how COVID-19 enters these facilities. It’s primarily through asymptomatic or presymptomatic people, and so we have to be so careful about visitors entering because we don’t want to introduce COVID-19 into the facilities that way,” Levine said.

But that is hard to hear for families who are willing to do whatever it takes to see their loved ones again.

Before the reopening process can even begin for a facility, it must have zero coronavirus cases for at least 14 days. Even one case during that time resets the clock, and they have to start all over again.

For more on the state’s guidance for reopening nursing homes, click here.

Fayette County Courthouse, offices restricted after employees test COVID-19 positive