APOLLO, Pa. (KDKA) -- A coronavirus outbreak at two Pittsburgh-area nursing homes has claimed 18 lives.
Quality Life Services headquartered in Butler County has ten nursing homes, all of which had been coronavirus-free through the summer. Then earlier this month, the virus struck with a vengeance in Apollo and at another facility in Sarver.
Through this pandemic, some nursing homes have been successful in keeping coronavirus at bay. But as we've seen, once the infection takes hold, it tends to spread through these care homes like wildfire.
Since the beginning of the month in Apollo, 77 of the 113 residents have tested positive, as well as 32 staff members. Nine residents have died from coronavirus.
In Sarver, 27 of the 49 residents and three staff members have tested positive. Nine residents have succumbed there, as well.
Paul McGuire, Quality Life Services' chief operating officer, says it has been devastating to families and staff.
"There are no words to describe what this COVID has done to the nursing home business in general," said McGuire
The sudden spike prompted Quality Life Services to request assistance from the Pennsylvania National Guard, which has been on-site at both centers since Nov. 10 to fill in for quarantined staff members.
McQuire attributes the infections to the rise of coronavirus cases in Butler and Westmoreland counties.
"It is so prevalent in the community, and it's just going in through our employees because we have been very restrictive with our visitation," McGuire said.
In fact, the most recent state inspections found no deficiencies in care in either home, and Apollo showed no problems in a COVID protocol review this summer. But a former kitchen aide, who quit in August, said the staff was lax in following those protocols.
"I'd see nurses walking around with their masks under their chins," said Emily Lineaweaver.
McGuire said he is not aware of any compliance issues.
"We enforce the wearing of the mask. We police the hallways for the wearing of the mask. We can't be with the employees 100 percent of the time," McGuire said.
Now, the National Guard is scheduled to pull out Tuesday as much of the staff has been able to return. Quality Life Services is hopeful that the infection is running its course, but the toll has already been devastating.
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