Department of Health releases new guidance for nursing homes

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HARRISBURG – Nursing homes statewide have received new guidance from the state Department of Health when it comes to COVID-19 testing residents and staff, and having visitors. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine says the department will now begin using low, moderate, and substantial county activity categories for facilities with no cases.

Dr. Levine says facilities in the low category will need to test staff every four weeks, and won’t have to test asymptomatic residents, then, “For facilities in a county with moderate activity level, we’re recommending testing of asymptomatic staff once a week. We are encouraging weekly testing of asymptomatic residents who have had outside contact in the past 14 days in these counties. For facilities in a county with substantial activity level, we’re recommending testing for asymptomatic staff twice a week.”

Dr. Levine says weekly testing for asymptomatic residents with outside contact within 14 days will also need to be tested weekly.

Compassionate caregivers are also now allowed in facilities with cases, and can include family members, but need to fulfill requirements, “Compassionate caregivers must follow requirements which included providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within the past seven days, they must undergo a screening, which is a temperature screen, etc, and they must wear a mask in the facility.”

Dr. Levine says all facilities will also be receiving antigen test machines, which are easier to use and are a cheaper option, “They are looking for surface proteins, so it’s a test of the surface proteins for presence of the virus…different types of technology can be done more easily with rapid tests.”

Dr. Levine also addressed a report the CDC is asking states to plan for a potential vaccine next month. We’ll have that in a future news story. Hear all of Dr. Levine’s comments above.

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