Dear WEL Pennypack Park Community:
I write to you today to address two important topics you may have heard or read about in recent media coverage – reported statistics of COVID-19 cases among senior living organizations and universal testing.
Earlier this week, The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article that included a list of long-term care facilities across Pennsylvania and their corresponding statistics regarding confirmed COVID-19 cases and associated deaths. I believe it is vital to clarify some of the information when it comes to WEL Pennypack Park. First, it is important to mention that we are required to report any COVID-19 case to no fewer than three agencies, including two reports to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since the beginning of this tragic situation, we have fully complied with these requirements and remain in close communication with all appropriate government agencies.
Regrettably, the listing included inaccurate data about our community’s cases, and I would like to clear the record here. As of 8:00 a.m. on 05.22.2020, we have experienced and reported 33 confirmed cases among residents in our Skilled Nursing Facility, 1 confirmed cases among our Personal Care residents and 2 confirmed cases among our Independent Living residents. Sadly, we have lost 9 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19.
We have also had 19 staff members test positive for the virus, many of whom have fully recovered and have returned to work.
This information should be consistent with what I have shared previously, even though it may not match the listing from the article; we are unsure the source of those figures. As I hope you know, I remain committed to being forthcoming with details about our community, even when some of that information weighs heavy on our hearts.
You may have also seen recent reports that Pennsylvania is aiming to institute weekly universal testing in nursing homes and senior living communities – for residents and staff – in the near term. At this time, we understand state officials are still in the early stages of developing a process for such an ambitious program, and we have not received any guidance on implementation.
This move, which even Governor Wolf called, “fairly radical” faces many challenges. The most prominent, perhaps, is the continued lack of testing availability. To this point, we have relied heavily on state and local private laboratories to conduct testing when necessary, though regular, universal testing would obviously require dramatically more capacity for us as well as all other senior living organizations in our region.
While this program seems to still be getting off the ground, there has also been much discussion about potentially providing a one-time testing of all residents in communities like ours. Of course, any single, widespread testing initiative like this would simply provide a snapshot in time; and as we’ve seen with this pervasive virus, things can change rapidly, so one-time universal testing would sadly provide limited benefit.
With that said, we will continue to comply with all regulatory requirements, and we are watching the dialogue about testing very closely to determine how best to bring more testing to our residents and staff in a safe, consistent manner.
As we await clearer direction and resources from state agencies on a more robust testing process, we will remain diligent – in solidarity with our residents and families – in implementing every precaution possible to help limit the spread of this devastating virus.
As important, the entire WEL team is focused on keeping you updated about current, relevant information affecting our organization and residents. I encourage you to continue to remain engaged and informed, and please do not hesitate to reach out with questions at any time.