The Pennsylvania National Guard’s deployment to the Milton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center marked the 14th time members of the reserves were dispatched during the novel coronavirus pandemic to assist at a long-term care facility in the state.

Approximately 20 soldiers and airmen trained as nurses and medics are assisting with non-acute care and facility maintenance, according to Lt. Col. Keith Hickox, state public affairs officer. The National Guard members are helping with taking residents’ vitals, Hickox said, while others are aiding with housekeeping and food service.

At least 109 residents and staff at the facility tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest information available from the state.

Nearly 68 percent of the 7,758 deaths statewide attributed to COVID-19 by the Department of Health occurred among residents of long-term care facilities and personal care homes.

A representative of the nursing facility’s owner, Bedrock Care of New York, said Wednesday that 16 residents died since the outbreak presented at the beginning of August. Bedrock representatives didn’t respond to an email Friday requesting an update and an interview with the facility’s chief administrator.

Most of the support missions lasted about a week or two, Hickox said, adding that the Department of Health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency would be responsible for extending the deployment.

“Our assistance throughout the pandemic, but especially in the long-term care facilities, goes to show the wide range of expertise and the extreme versatility that exists within our National Guard formation. Working together with our state partners and citizens is how we will get through this situation. We are all in this together,” Hickox said.

National Guard members are serving 24 hours daily for five days with their deployment slated to end Monday. They’re assisting medical staff from Geisinger and a Department of Health contractor, General Healthcare Resources, after an outbreak of COVID-19 overwhelmed residents and staff.

The Health Department’s most recently available figures show 73 residents and 36 staffers tested positive. The state appointed a temporary manager at the facility, Senior Health Care Solutions of Scranton, which reports directly to the state.

The Department of Health indefinitely installed a new facility manager “due to deficiencies found at the facility, and will remain in place until the department determines it is no longer necessary.” A department spokesman denied a request to elaborate on the deficiencies, stating a facility report would be released publicly. That report isn’t expected for at least a month.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced in May that his office opened criminal investigations into several nursing homes in the state at the time. In making the announcement, Shapiro pledged to “investigate any nursing home engaging in criminal neglect of patients and residents,” according to a press release.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said they could neither confirm or deny if Milton Nursing and Rehabilitation is currently under investigation.

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