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Nursing homes earn praise

Early response to pandemic has kept cases low

Mark Taylor, (left), Blair County Director of Public of Safety, and Sister Joachim Anne Ferenchak, Garvey Manor Administrator, listen to speakers at a recognition ceremony for leaders of area nursing homes at the Park Hills Country Club patio on Thursday. Mirror photo by Kay Stephens

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders praised local nursing homes Thursday for ongoing efforts that have kept their facilities nearly free of COVID-19 cases.

Because of the homes’ preventive efforts and their success, Blair County’s COVID-19 cases have remained low, to everyone’s benefit, Director of Public Safety Mark Taylor said during a recognition ceremony on the Park Hills Country Club patio.

Taylor, Commissioner Amy Webster, state Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, and state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Hollidaysburg, thanked and praised the group of socially distanced administrators and representatives of 18 nursing facilities who attended the ceremony, hosted by the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

“Having 74 COVID-19 cases in Blair County and none in your facilities is the biggest reason we’re in the green right now,” Gregory told the group, in reference to the state’s phase with fewer COVID-19 restrictions.

While nursing facilities inside Blair County have reported three positive test results from COVID-19 tests, Taylor said all involved asymptomatic residents who tested negative after additional testing and no staff members have tested positive.

Chrissy Dambeck, administrator at the Altoona Center for Nursing Care, said that early and ongoing efforts have made a difference.

“We were pro-active and put visitor restrictions in place before they were mandated,” Dambeck said.

Another effective measure, she said, has been the daily temperature screening of employees.

Ward also praised the nursing facilities and their staff for taking on new responsibilities to help their residents maintain connections with families and others.

“You’ve become a lifeline to the outside,” Ward said.

Taylor also addressed ongoing efforts by local facilities to comply with the state Department of Health’s recent mandate of COVID-19 testing of all residents and staff.

No positive test results have been reported so far, according to Taylor.

“This is further testimony of the outstanding preparedness, preventive and surveillance efforts by each of these nursing homes in handling COVID-19,” Taylor said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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