A patient from Kane Community Living Center in McKeesport died at the emergency room Thursday after suffering respiratory distress.
Despite rumors that the patient was exposed to a hazardous chemical or other contaminant, emergency officials said there was no evidence of that, and the facility was open as normal on Thursday evening.
McKeesport police, firefighters and McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service were dispatched to the 360-bed facility at the foot of Ninth Avenue at about 1:20 p.m. Initial reports from Allegheny County 9-1-1 were that a patient was in cardiac arrest after being exposed to a "powdery substance."
Those reports were incorrect, McKeesport fire Chief Jeff Tomovcsik said Thursday night.
Neither the patient nor Kane employees were sickened by any substance, said Brent Wasko, Allegheny County spokesman.
Emergency personnel said the patient was taken by ambulance to UPMC McKeesport, where he died.
Allegheny County Communications Director Amie Downs said the patient's identity was not being released pending notification of next of kin.
Due to privacy laws, Downs said she could not release any information about what heart- or lung-related medical conditions the patient may have been suffering while at Kane, which is a skilled-nursing and rehabilitation facility.
When emergency crews arrived, no one other than the patient was ill, Tomovcsik said, and no hazardous or suspicious substances were found in the victim's room.
Allegheny County police and a county hazardous materials expert did respond to the scene to aid the investigation, Wasko, the county spokesman, said.
Despite rumors on social media, no contaminants were found in air vents or the center's ventilation system, either, he said.
"There appears to be a great deal of misinformation out there, so we wanted to provide some clarification to prevent the rumors," Wasko said.
As a precaution, Tomovcsik said, first-responders asked all employees on that wing to decontaminate and go home in clean clothes, he said.
In addition, Tomovcsik said, the room where the victim was found was sealed until it could be cleaned.
The county medical examiner's office will release additional details about the patient's death "when appropriate," Downs said.
Jason Togyer is the editor of Tube City Almanac and the volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published November 29, 2018.