HARRISBURG — After weeks of delay, the state Department of Health released a list of 557 nursing homes Tuesday where residents or staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
The listing included Helen’s Place for Personal Care in Sharon, the location of Mercer County’s only nursing-home-related COVID-19 case.
An administrator, who did not provide her name, said the case was a man who tested positive for the illness while at a Veterans Administration hospital in Pittsburgh, and possibly contracted the virus there. At the time, though, the man was listed as a resident at Helen’s Place, and therefore was placed on the state’s Mercer County nursing home list.
The resident was transferred to another VA facility in Butler County and has not returned to Helen’s place, the administrator said. She did, however, contact the man last week and he said he was doing well.
There have been no other COVID-19 cases at Helen’s Place, or at any other nursing home in Mercer County, an anomaly in a state where nursing homes have been ravaged.
The Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County — formerly the county-owned senior home of Friendship Ridge — had 358 confirmed cases, with an additional 25 employees infected. The center has had 76 deaths.
The Health Department has installed a temporary manager at Brighton, and the National Guard has been sent there and to other nursing homes with severe outbreaks.
Brighton had no immediate comment Tuesday.
The listing spotlighted 30 other long-term-care homes with more than 100 confirmed cases.
Nearly 50 nursing homes have reported 20 or more deaths related to COVID-19, according to the listing released Tuesday.
Nursing homes and personal care homes have struggled for months to contain the virus, with many lacking the trained staff, testing supplies and personal protective equipment in the early going that could have helped them slow the spread, according to public health experts.
“All of those things are a challenge, and each one of those things together creates a high barrier for nursing homes, even today,” said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy.
The Department of Health has had a listing for several weeks of nursing home cases by county, but not by nursing home names or ownership.
Of the state’s 4,624 COVID-19 deaths, 3,086 have been associated with nursing homes or long-term care centers. There have been no nursing-home-related deaths in Mercer County.
The Health Department still held back some information from Tuesday’s release, redacting data from facilities reporting 1 to 4 infections or deaths. Officials cited patients’ right to privacy for the decision.
Mercer County death toll doubles
The Health Department’s Tuesday COVID-19 report included two fatalities in Mercer County, doubling the county’s previous death tally.
Mercer County Coroner John Libonati said the fatalities were a man from Grove City in his late 60s and a woman from the Shenango Valley in her 80s. Both had underlying medical conditions that compromised their abilities to combat the virus.
The county’s two previous COVID-19 fatalities were two men from the Shenango Valley in their 70s. Both had unrelated health issues that contributed to their deaths, Libonati said.
Statewide, the state’s caseload increased by 610, for a total of 63,666, with 119 deaths, bringing the state’s total to 4,624.
Mercer County’s caseload increased by three, to 94.
Courthouse summer series, Juneteenth canceled
COVID-19 caused the cancellation of two more summer events Tuesday, as organizers announced the cancellation of the Mercer County Courthouse Summer Concert Series and Farrell’s Juneteenth celebration, due to the pandemic.
• Dr. Hendley D. Hoge, director of the concert series and the Mercer County Community Band, said the decision was delayed while evaluating federal and state recommendations with regard to large-group gatherings and social distancing. The concert series, held eight times a year, has drawn hundreds of people to the courthouse bandstand for each performance.
He said the band will perform a one-time-only special “Celebration” concert on the courthouse square when the pandemic restrictions are lifted. The celebration event will include warmup music, instrumental and vocal soloists, a band concert and an ice cream social.
• Farrell’s Juneteenth celebration — which commemorates the June 19, 1865, arrival in west Texas of news that the Union had won the Civil War and emancipation of the last enslaved people in the United States — has been held for 25 years. Last year’s event was held on June 14 and 15.
Mercer graduate caravan rolls out tonight
Mercer Area School District will recognize its Class of 2020 with a vehicle parade tonight for seniors.
Seniors will meet at 5:30 p.m. at Michaels Mercer Raceway, on Fairground Road, Coolspring Township, to decorate their vehicles. At 6, a police escort will lead them through the town. District residents