Nursing Home Operators Plea for More Testing, PPE

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The coronavirus’ siege on nursing homes has become so dire that facility operators from Trumbull and Mahoning counties are pleading for help from anyone in Ohio who can provide desperately needed testing and personal protective equipment. 

Northeast Ohio Senior Rights Advocacy Group made the plea after the Ohio Department of Health reports that 1,199 senior care center residents have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease spread by coronavirus. There also are 477 staff members associated with these centers who are positive for COVID-19.

“Although long-term care facilities in Ohio have been identified as hotspots for the virus, they are not being allocated tests or PPE. These facilities cannot properly protect their residents and staff from an invisible and deadly enemy without the proper tools,” states the advocacy group in a news release.

It was submitted by the owners and operators of Briarfield, Community Skilled, Heritage Manor, Ohio Living Lake Vista, Shepherd of the Valley and Windsor House Inc.

In the tri-county area, 130 residents and 72 staff members have COVID-19 at 21 long-time care facilities, which include nursing homes and assisted living centers. There are more than 100 of these facilities in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Last week Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the Ohio Department of Health to collect more specific information regarding nursing homes. The information lists cumulative numbers for each specific nursing home and assisted living where positive diagnoses have been identified with a resident or staff member as well the deaths broken down by location and county, DeWine said. There was listing of deaths on the state website. This is the first week for reporting under the new order.

The advocacy group says spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus greatly increases without the ability to test. The group points out nursing homes cannot purchase these items because of the disruption in the supply chain. 

“Test kits and PPE allocation are controlled by governmental agencies that do not have the same sense of urgency that we do. Supplying these items to nursing homes will save lives,” the group says.

In order to protect high-risk populations living in these community environments, COVID-19 patients need to be identified and isolated, even before symptoms begin as the virus has such a long incubation period.

“One positive COVID-19 resident could potentially result in hospital admissions for some 15-25 residents and for numerous members of the staff. This also puts EMS and hospital staff at risk,” according to the statement. 

Overall, about a fifth of all deaths from the virus in the United States have been tied to nursing homes or other senior care centers. 

The Ohio Department Health reports that in the overall health care system, 2,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19. The actual number is projected to be much higher because many carriers are asymptomatic and testing for workers in long-term care settings is limited.

“They are being asked to risk their lives, and their families’ lives, yet they are not being considered a priority for PPE by state and federal agencies,” according to the local advocacy group.

What follows are the latest numbers for the three-county region:

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