Aid runs out for key Pennsylvania virus containment program

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Wolf administration officials said Wednesday the state does not have the money to maintain a key feature of its response to coronavirus outbreaks in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, and are working to retain a short-term, scaled-down model now that federal funding ran out.

Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller told reporters that the Wolf administration is running a scaled-down version of a program that distributed $175 million in federal coronavirus aid to 11 regional health systems or health organizations to help contain outbreaks in nursing homes.

Miller said the partnership had helped save lives in the state’s roughly 2,000 long-term care facilities, and that Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration will keep asking the federal government for more money to continue the program.

[Here is how to stay informed about coronavirus updates from WPXI]

In the meantime, the state is using up to $6 million through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to maintain rapid response services through Feb. 28 and another $28 million over the coming months to support testing, officials said.

One key difference will be the duration and size of a response involving staffing support, said Keara Klinepeter, a Department of Health official.

Fewer support staff would be deployed and they would stay for three to five days, rather than periods of more like two weeks under the federally funded program, Klinepeter said.

More than 740,000 people have tested positive in Pennsylvania and more than 18,400 have died, including almost 10,000 in long-term care facilities, according to state data.