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Allegheny County’s four Kane Community Living Centers remain closed to almost all visitors and will stay that way, even after some restrictions on travel and business are lifted May 15.
“We will be following guidance from the state Health Department,” said Dr. Mario Fatigati, chief medical officer, at a news conference Friday. Although the county is scheduled to move from “red” status to “yellow” next week, none of the Kane skilled-nursing centers will be permitting visitors “until we’re moved to ‘green,’” he said.
Even then, Fatigati said, there will be additional precautions in place.
“This is not going to go away overnight,” he said. “I'm sure that we will be taking other measures to make sure that additional screening is going to be in place ... even in the green phase.”
The county has four Kane centers, located along McKeesport’s waterfront, in Pittsburgh’s Glen Hazel neighborhood and in Scott and Ross townships. The centers house the elderly and other people with long-term health conditions.
The Glen Hazel center has been especially hard-hit by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, with 73 patients falling ill and 13 dying from the disease. In addition, 42 employees at the Glen Hazel center have tested positive.
Of those, 27 have recovered and returned to work, said Dennis Biondo, director of the Kane centers.
“They work hard, they follow all of the guidance, and it becomes very difficult work when you’re (wearing) full protective coverings every day,” he said. “It would be easy to become demoralized (but) our staff has been great through all of this ... I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
At the McKeesport center, one patient and one employee each tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus.
Since March 15, the Kane centers have forbidden all visitors except for critically ill patients who are nearing the end of their lives.
That includes Mother’s Day, but the centers will have special events planned for residents on Sunday and throughout the week, Biondo said.
In some cases, residents are using FaceTime and other video conferencing applications to speak with friends and loved ones, he said.
The Kanes and other long-term care facilities will learn lessons from this pandemic, Biondo predicted. He said the facilities had sanitation and disease prevention protocols in place that were proven effective during past infections and illnesses, but this coronavirus has required changes to them.
“We’ve managed C. diff (clostridioides difficile), we’ve managed flu, but this is a different animal because of its infectious nature,” he said.
For one thing, Biondo said, “I think we’ve leared that the way our buildings are designed may need to change.”
In the future, long-term care facilities “are probably going to need to spread out a little bit more, because (having patients in) double rooms is tough to manage, when you have something this infectious,” he said.
When visitors are allowed back into the Kane centers, it’s likely they will have to submit to a temperature screening, Fatigati said. More rapid testing is going to be necessary in the future as well, he said.
Jason Togyer is editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published May 09, 2020.