More than a dozen COVID-19 deaths have been reported at Lancaster County's second-largest nursing home, according to County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni.
He said late Friday that a quick check of his records showed "about 16" of the county's 89 COVID-19 deaths had been from 446-bed Conestoga View Nursing & Rehabilitation in Lancaster Township.
The most recent public update posted on Conestoga View's website is dated April 9 and does not indicate any deaths or specify how many residents and staff had tested positive. Instead, it provides this general statement: "We have seen an increase in the number of confirmed cases and do have additional tests pending."
Conestoga View's executive director, Howard Hay, said in an emailed statement Saturday afternoon that it "cannot comment on the current status of our residents to ensure their privacy" but families are notified "as appropriate."
"We are in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time," he wrote, detailing actions the home has taken. His full statement is at the end of this story.
At least 16 Lancaster County nursing homes, senior living communities or similar facilities have now publicly confirmed at least one COVID-19 case among residents or staff, and some have reported multiple deaths.
An ongoing log of cases and deaths confirmed at local nursing homes and facilities is here, and the actual number of associated cases and deaths in the county is almost certainly higher, given that some facilities are publicly disclosing information sporadically, or not at all.
Neither state nor federal regulators require nursing home officials to inform the residents of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said previously.
“But we do expect facilities to take steps to protect the health and safety of residents and share information with those residents,” he said.
When asked about that, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine repeated a common theme on balancing individual privacy and confidentiality of medical information versus the needs of public health.
"Certainly anyone that’s positive will be notified, depending upon the written consents their family would be notified, and then close contacts would be notified, because they would have to be in quarantine," she said, noting that the nursing homes do have to notify her department and the local health department, if there is one.
Leaders of two state associations that represent nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities issued the most recent of several joint statements Friday saying they need support and providers "continue to await a response to our request for $290 million in emergency funding and a 3% rate increase to address the ongoing underfunding of nursing facilities in Pennsylvania."
“Our members deserve praise and support for the exceptional job they are doing to protect our older adults. No one is at greater risk to contract and have negative outcomes from COVID-19 than those served in long-term care settings, and providers are doing the absolute best they can with limited resources and support from the administration to care for our most vulnerable population," they wrote.
“We are also grateful the governor acknowledged the need for liability protections for health care providers. We look forward to a firm commitment to ensuring health care providers, who are working tirelessly across the state, do not become the next fodder for predatory attorneys seeking to profit off of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The full statement from Hays follows.
Conestoga View respects the rights and privacy of our residents and staff. We cannot comment on the current status of our residents to ensure their privacy. We are in very close communication with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking the appropriate steps at this time. Our staff and residents are following the recommended preventative actions, we have restricted visitors from entering our facility, and cancelled all group activities within the building at this time. Our dedicated medical, clinical and support staff continue to provide care each day. Residents are monitored for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Families are provided updates as appropriate. Staff are screened each day before they enter into the facility. Staff working in the facility are in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the containment of the virus to protect both residents and employees. We greatly appreciate the support that our residents and families have shown at this time. We are truly blessed to have such an amazing staff who continue to care for our residents each day. They truly are heroes, everyone of them.