When grandfather tested positive for COVID-19 | Opinion

Not so long ago, my family faced the grief of saying our virtual “goodbyes” through phones and computers to my beloved grandfather.

He resides in a personal care home in southeastern Pennsylvania, and despite staff’s extraordinary efforts to protect him, he tested positive for COVID-19. Like many families across the Commonwealth, we heard this news over the phone and looked forward to the daily updates.

I am delighted to report that, thanks to the hard work of those who care for him, my grandfather has recovered from COVID-19.

But for two weeks, he was just another data point on a daily report. It has never been a simple data point for us, and none of the thousands of residents receiving long-term care are simple data points for their families.

Yet one of the most enduring themes of the COVID-19 crisis in Pennsylvania and across the country has been data collection and reporting.

Presumed positive cases. Positive cases. Recoveries. COVID-related deaths.

We’ve relied on the daily or weekly reports so much that we’ve come to think of people affected by this terrible virus as just another number, or tally, for the county and state. But we can’t let the numbers protect us from the fact that these are real people – they are family, loved ones, friends and co-workers.

As an advocate for long-term care providers, workers and residents of Pennsylvania, I have seen the devastating toll this virus has taken on frontline staff and our most vulnerable population: our seniors.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Pennsylvania, long-term care providers have worked tirelessly to follow the ever-changing guidelines from state and federal partners and to take all possible precautions and preventative measures to ensure the health and safety of their residents. and the staff. And those on the front lines have made extraordinary efforts to protect those in their charge. But even these heroic efforts, in many cases, are not enough. Sometimes the virus enters and spreads in a facility or community anyway.

There are stories like this all over Pennsylvania. Statewide, nearly 70% of all COVID-related deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. And more than 600 establishments are currently reporting at least one positive case.

So while the virus, in the absence of a vaccine, may be unstoppable, there are ways to lessen its spread.

A recent Spotlight PA article, widely circulated throughout Pennsylvania, noted repeated criticism of the state for “its slow response and its missteps in protecting these vulnerable residents.” In my role as an advocate for long-term care providers, I have been – and will continue to be – incredibly vocal about the refusal to put our most vulnerable residents first during this pandemic.

In these summer months, one thing is clear: now is not the time to be complacent. We must act and prepare for what lies ahead.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Pennsylvania, it’s that long-term care providers need to have a seat at the table to share critical ideas. and first-hand experiences, deliver best practices and lessons learned and, more importantly, identify and prioritize the resources and support frontline people desperately need.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, can stop the spread of COVID-19. Testing can help identify who has the virus, providing better treatment options. Appoint a long-term care ambassador to collaborate and work with providers to mitigate and contain COVID-19 and protect residents in our care.

Prioritizing long-term care will ensure that Pennsylvanians, like my grandfather, don’t just become data points on a spreadsheet.

And it will help thousands of families, like mine, to know that their loved ones are protected, whether they are working or residing in a facility or community.

Zach Shamberg is President and CEO, PA Health Care Association.

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