- Associated Press - Saturday, May 23, 2020

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - State health officials say civil penalties totaling more than $93,000 have been assessed against nursing care facilities in Pennsylvania amid hundreds of complaint investigations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Saturday that nursing home surveyors have conducted more than 1,470 inspections of nursing homes since the beginning of February. There have been more than 900 complaint investigations, and 10 sanctions were finalized, the department said.

“We know that congregate care settings, like nursing homes, have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine. “That is why we remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians by continuing to hold nursing home operators accountable, as necessary, to ensure they are providing safe care. If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up.”

Last year, the department conducted 5,381 inspections of 3,637 nursing homes, including 3,285 complaint investigations, the department said. A total of 213 sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities and civil penalties totaled more than $2.5 million dollars, the department said.

Sanctions can result in civil penalties, admission prohibitions, license revocation or the facility being placed under a provisional license, which can require more inspections than normal, among other things, officials said.



In other coronavirus-related developments:

CASES:

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says more than 5,000 deaths in the commonwealth are now associated with the coronavirus.

The department on Saturday reported 112 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, raising the statewide total to 5,096.

State health officials also reported that more than 700 more people testing positive for the new coronavirus, bringing the state total to just under 67,000. The state has recorded fewer than 1,000 new cases daily for almost two weeks.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than the state’s confirmed case count because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick. Most hospitalizations and deaths have occurred among patients 65 or older.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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ANIMAL AGRICULTURE PRODUCERS

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has announced that $280,000 is available to poultry, swine, lamb, goat, and sheep processors in the commonwealth to reimburse them for costs associated with the purchase of personal protective equipment for their workers.

The program, available through the Center for Poultry and Livestock Excellence and resulting from last year’s farm bill, is available to processor or support services with receipts proving they bought such equipment to protect workers from COVID-19 between Feb. 19 and May 18.

Applicants can receive up to $16,000 in three categories: $10,000 for personal protective equipment and sanitation/cleaning materials (including masks, coveralls, gloves, face shields, hand sanitizer, cleaning products); $5,000 for prevention and surveillance tools (such as thermometers); and $1,000 for bilingual training materials and signage.

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