Pennsylvania plans widespread virus tests in nursing homes

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania will roll out a plan to begin coronavirus testing for every resident and employee of nursing homes and other facilities that provide care for older adults, Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday.

Wolf said his administration will undertake the surveillance testing, with a goal of testing every resident and employee once a week, given the pandemic’s tremendous toll on nursing homes.

“What we are going to do, which I think is fairly radical, is make sure that we are doing surveillance testing,” Wolf said on a telephone news conference.

Wolf’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, had previously said there was not enough available testing to test everyone in a nursing home.

She also had said that testing everyone wasn’t useful unless they were to be repeatedly tested to continue checking to see whether they became infected later.

The virus is reported by Wolf’s administration to have killed more than 2,600 residents of 540 nursing homes or personal care homes, or two-thirds of the state’s death toll, and sickened more than 12,000 others, about one-fifth of the state’s positive tests.

Pennsylvania added more than 800 new infections and 75 deaths to the state’s COVID-19 toll on Tuesday.

The Health Department said more than 3,800 people in the state have died from the pandemic and nearly 58,000 have been sickened.

In other Pennsylvania pandemic developments:

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NATIONAL GUARD

The Pennsylvania National Guard says some personnel are sick with COVID-19, including those who contracted the virus that causes the disease while deployed.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Keith Hickox said his agency has helped 13 long-term care facilities in response to the pandemic.

It’s nearly impossible to know how the Guard troops became sick, he said, describing the total number as relatively low, considering what they have been doing.

Hickox said that medical staffers have helped out at nine facilities and that training has been done at five of them. The Guard is not disclosing the list of nursing homes and similar places they have been assisting.

The effort has involved more than 180 medical workers, mostly helping with comparatively less sick residents, so the facilities’ own medical staff can focus where patients need it the most.

Others with the Guard are providing logistical help, cleaning, and training of facility staffers in the use of personal protective gear and decontamination, Hickox said.

All members are quarantined and tested when high-risk missions are completed, he said.

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