Ever since the initial Covid-19 outbreak in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, nursing homes and other group-care facilities have figured prominently in the Covid-19 statistics. That is certainly the case in Pennsylvania: according to the latest data from the PA Department of Health, nursing homes and similar facilities accounted for 20% percent of Pennsylvania Covid-19 cases and 66% of deaths.

The fact that nursing homes account for almost 2/3 of Pennsylvania deaths paints a grim picture of the situation in those facilities. It’s clear that having large number of vulnerable people confined to a limited space, with constant contact among staff and residents, provides the perfect breeding ground for this virus.

In Chester County, where Kendal is located, the data is even more stark. Out of 111 Covid-19 deaths reported so far, 98 of them have been in nursing homes. That rate of nursing-home deaths, over 88%, is exceptionally high. Of the 16 counties in Pennsylvania with over 20 Covid-19 deaths, there is only one whose percentage of nursing-home deaths is higher (Beaver County, at 89%).

In light of the situation in the surrounding county, we are indeed fortunate at Kendal to have a medical staff that has kept our facility free of Covid-19 cases.

In Pennsylvania, the state does not release the names of nursing homes with Covid-19 cases and deaths, so families may not know whether their family members have been exposed. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are only 12 states that provide data about cases and deaths at individual facilities.

No comprehensive testing yet. Testing of all nursing-home residents and staff would be a good idea, but (based on web searches) it does not seem to be happening yet. Washington state is gearing up to test its roughly 4,100 “group-care” facilities, as soon as it can get the necessary test kits, according to the Seattle Times. At the Kirkland facility where the first outbreak occurred, 167 residents have tested positive and 43 have died. Montana and West Virginia also have plans to test all their nursing-home residents.

In Los Angeles, the LA Times reports that all nursing homes are being advised to test all residents and staff. This comes in the wake of testing at one home, Brier Oak, where, after two residents tested positive, the director of clinical operations decided she would get everyone tested. To her amazement, it turned out that 95% of the almost 200 residents tested positive, and 75% of staff were positive as well. Three residents have died. Various residents and staff had had symptoms that, in retrospect, were probably Covid-19.

If the Brier Oak results are any indication, comprehensive testing in nursing homes will uncover a large number of previously unreported Covid-19 cases.