State leaders asking nursing homes to ban visitors for most cases due to COVID-19

PITTSBURGH — Families with loved ones in nursing homes are facing new restrictions. Gov. Tom Wolf announced all nursing homes in the state should ban visitors in most cases due to the coronavirus.

Before the governor’s announcement late in the day Friday, there had been no consistent protocol issued for nursing homes on visitation. That led to confusion, sometimes even misinformation, and varying policies with some homes having no screening for visitors, while others banned visitors outright.

Mary Sweeney said she goes to the Allegheny County-run Kane Community Living Center in the North Hills every day to visit her mother. Friday was the first time she was stopped at the door.

“They said they got a call that there was a coronavirus case in Allegheny County and that they locked it down for the patients’ safety,” Sweeney said.

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That was misinformation. There was no confirmed case in Allegheny County, although a presumed case was identified in Washington County Friday.

Still, A different family said they were told the same thing.

“She got turned away because they said this morning at 11:15, they detected the first case of coronavirus in Allegheny County,” Mark Persic said.

Inside, 11 Investigates asked why families were told that information, when there were no confirmed Coronavirus cases in Allegheny County. An administrator would not comment.

Late Friday evening, an Allegheny County spokesperson told channel 11 it must have been a miscommunication, because in “the script used for the notification to families... there is no reference to a coronavirus case in Allegheny County.”

Some families wondered why visitors had not been banned sooner, since the elderly are most susceptible to serious complications from coronavirus.

“I said ‘You know, this is kind of interesting. Everything is closing, and she can really just walk in and out of there,” Persic said.

Several other nursing homes in the area were taking precautions, but had varying policies, until the new policy banning all visitors was announced.

Manor Care, for example, was screening visitors with questions about whether they had traveled or had a temperature, while UPMC facilities appeared to have no restrictions on visitors, other than self precautions.

For now, most visitors are banned at all Pennsylvania nursing homes. Exceptions are being made for end-of-life and hospice care cases.