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'Going To War With A Butter Knife': Nursing Home Workers Ask Pennsylvania Lawmakers For More PPE

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania has the distinction of having a high number of coronavirus deaths coming from nursing homes.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Nurses who work in those facilities are asking state lawmakers for help in getting the equipment they need.

"We're going to war with a butter knife and a bathing suit. We're going into this not being fully prepared," nursing home employee Artinese Malachi said.

"We need enforceable COVID-specific OSHA standards that will keep employees safe and will hold employers to account," said Rep. Susan Wild.

Across the state, 37% of the cases have been diagnosed in the 25-49 age group. That group leads the age breakdown. The 65 or older age bracket has 28% of the cases, jumping over the 50-64 age group, which now has 26% of the cases.

Here is the full age breakdown from the state:

  • Nearly 1% are aged 0-4;
  • Nearly 1% are aged 5-12;
  • 1% are aged 13-18;
  • Nearly 6% are aged 19-24;
  • 37% are aged 25-49;
  • 26% are aged 50-64; and
  • Nearly 28% are aged 65 or older.

The state health department numbers show there are 10,919 resident cases of COVID-19 in nursing and personal care homes across Pennsylvania. Among employees, there are 1,542 diagnosed cases. That brings the entire total to 12,461. Out of the total deaths across Pennsylvania, state officials say 2,458 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

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"We have a values challenge in this country on the way in which we approach senior care and senior living," said Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. "And if nothing else, we really hope that as we care through this crisis on the other side, we're ready to have a conversation."

Nurses say they want to know where the money is going.

"The funding in these facilities needs to be transparent because most of the money the facilities receive doesn't go to direct bedside care like it should," said nursing home employee Tina Spiegel. "It goes into the pockets of the companies that operate them -- and that's a disgrace to our residents."

They also urge lawmakers and the SEIU Healthcare Union to push for additional paid sick leave days and rapid turnaround on test results for potentially infected workers.

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