Apr. 17, 2020

Lawmaker also wants data on COVID-19 cases

HARRISBURG—Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) has written to the Pennsylvania secretary of Health asking the state to expand testing for COVID-19 to all workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Stephens will also introduce legislation to require the release of data on COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities to give families the best information to protect their loved ones.

“In light of the alarming numbers of deaths associated with long-term care facilities in Montgomery County and across Pennsylvania, we must prioritize the well-being of some of our most vulnerable individuals during this outbreak, our older adults residing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” Stephens wrote in the letter.

Currently, only symptomatic residents and staff have access to testing. Providing accessibility to expedited testing for long-term care residents and workers ensures the virus is not being inadvertently spread by those who carry it but are asymptomatic.

Stephens also wants the data on COVID-19 infections at long-term care facilities released to the public.

“The coronavirus has severely impacted the senior population in Pennsylvania, and that impact is clear from the data surrounding positive cases and deaths associated with long-term care facilities,” Stephens said.

As of April 15, of the 24,490 positive cases in Pennsylvania, 3,316 (13.5%) of them have been associated with a nursing home. Astoundingly, 324 of 647 (50%) of the COVID-19 deaths statewide have been associated with a nursing home, while in Montgomery County 64% of the COVID-19 deaths have been associated with a long-term care facility.

To ensure residents of long-term care facilities and their families have the information necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones, Stephens’ legislation would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health or a county health department to publish the number of COVID-19 cases as a percentage of the total number of residents each long-term care facility has reported. It would also require the publishing of the protocols used for isolating positive cases.

“This facility-specific data is already being collected, but the Health Department currently only publishes data by county not facility,” Stephens said. “Under my legislation, concerned family members will have the data showing the extent of the coronavirus’s spread in each long-term facility.”

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives