coronavirus cell

Ten new area cases of COVID-19 are part of the 980 additional positive cases reported Thursday, bringing Pennsylvania's total to 65,392.

There are no additional deaths in the area among 102 reported by the Department of Health on Thursday, bringing the state total to 4,869 deaths attributed to COVID-19,

Cambria County added one new case to reach 55 total, with two deaths; Somerset held steady at 37 cases and no deaths; Bedford County has four new cases to reach 36 total. with two deaths; and Blair County has five new cases for a total of 44 cases and one death.

During her daily press briefing Thursday, Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine answered criticism of the state's policy that forced nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients when they were discharged from hospitals.

The policy followed federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services, Levine said, adding that most states adopted similar policies.

“A vast majority of those patients contracted COVID-19 at the (long-term living) facility,” Levine said. “Because they got sicker, they were transferred to the hospital. Then, when they were better, they were transferred back to their home, which is the facility.”

The health department provided guidance to keep infected residents isolated from others, she said.

“At the same time, there was significant concern about overwhelming the hospitals and making sure that patients couldn't just stay in the hospital because we needed those hospital beds,” Levine continued.

The health department has ongoing reviews of its protocols, she said.

Thursday's report adds 166 additional cases in residents of long-term care facilities, which include nursing homes and personal care homes. A total of 14,113 residents of the homes have tested positive for COVID-19. There have been an additional 62 deaths in the homes related to COVID-19, bringing the state total to 3,234 deaths in facilities.

An additional 62 employees of the homes have tested positive, for a total of 2,306 confirmed cases.

The state released an updated report of long-term care home cases late Thursday afternoon, with corrections from the initial facility-specific report on Tuesday. It continued to show only one Cambria County nursing home with any COVID-19 reported. The home has fewer than five cases.

Levine discouraged extensive holiday travel over the Memorial Day weekend.

“If the weather is nice this weekend outside in your immediate area, it is fine,” she said. “If you are going to be in contact with other people, please wear a mask. Please practice social distancing.

“We are really not recommending that people make long trips.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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