17848 DOH Testing Lab

Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

Lititz Borough has the third-highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Lancaster County — all from one nursing home.

That’s according to county coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, who said the 18 who died were residents at Luther Acres Healthcare Center.

As of Tuesday afternoon, only Lancaster Township, with 96 deaths, and Manheim Township, with 40, had more deaths caused by the virus.

Diamantoni reported 206 total COVID-19 deaths in the county Tuesday.

In a Monday post at its website, Luther Acres reported 17 of 33 residents who tested positive for the virus had died. Nearly all the deaths were in the past two weeks, according to municipal data on the county’s website, which listed only one coronavirus death in Lititz as of April 21.

Contacted Tuesday by LNP | LancasterOnline, the nursing home agreed with Diamantoni’s number.

“I can’t say if we’re at the peak of the outbreak, but it appears as though we are at the peak of resident deaths,” Craig Shelly, the home’s executive director, said in an email Tuesday. “The number of daily new cases has appeared to have slowed, both for residents and staff.”

According to Monday’s post, 24 staffers tested positive, with 12 returning to work after following federal guidelines. Seven of the residents who tested positive have since recovered.

Shelly said the nursing home believes the virus was brought in “by a team member who was asymptomatic at the time, not through hospital admissions or re-admissions,” and that when the peak hit, “the resident care need increased drastically at the same time the number of available staff was at its lowest.”

“In an effort to support consistent care delivery and our staff, we intensified our relationship with contracted vendors to fill some of the voids left by our heroic caregivers who fell ill while providing care to our COVID-19-positive residents,” he wrote. “The biggest challenge now is the psychological toll this is taking on the staff.”

Carl R. McAloose, president and CEO of Luther Acre’s parent organization, Luthercare, said in an email that a pandemic response plan was implemented March 3. He said the nursing home followed all guidelines from “our local health system, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

He wrote the nursing home faced initial shortages of personal protective equipment and at first test results were taking more than two weeks, “which resulted in direct care givers coming offline when we were preparing for an anticipated surge of cases.”

But, McAloose and Shelly wrote, test results are now down to 24 to 36 hours and the nursing home has gotten federal funds to help offset the cost of the pandemic and been given protective gear by many sources.

Shelly wrote the home continues to receive weekly shipments of PPE from the state Department of Health, noting that it requested help from the department’s infection control consultant and “ To date, they have validated our approaches to managing the outbreak.”

Luther Acres is one of several county nursing homes that have suffered a heavy toll from COVID-19. According to recent data from Diamantoni, 52 residents from Conestoga View Nursing & Rehabilitation, 20 from Hamilton Arms Center and 16 from ManorCare Health Services — Lancaster, all located in Lancaster Township, have died from the virus.

The overall star ratings for each home from Medicare, with 1 being the poorest rating and 5 the best, are 5 for Luther Acres, 4 for Hamilton Arms, 2 for ManorCare and 1 for Conestoga View.