The Department of Health and Human Services is set to distribute rapid point-of-care diagnostic test instruments and tests to every nursing home in the nation, beginning with the facilities in COVID-19 hotspots next week.
Nursing homes prioritized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will be sent one diagnostic testing instrument, either the BD Veritor system or the Quidel Sofia and Sofia 2 systems. They will be sent enough tests to screen each resident and staff member weekly, as well as visitors, if appropriate for the facility.
After the initial distribution, nursing homes will be able to purchase additional tests directly from the respective manufacturers.
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WHY THIS MATTERS
These point-of-care tests, which have a 15-minute turnaround, allow nursing homes to take action on infection control procedures, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
"This new testing initiative is critical for keeping vulnerable older adults safe while delivering the quality of life they deserve," Verma said by statement. "It gives nursing homes the ability to swiftly identify residents that need to be isolated and mitigate the spread of the virus. As one more tool in the toolbox, it represents an important step toward the long-awaited reunion of residents with their loved ones."
Verma said the COVID-19 pandemic hasn't just been a threat to this population, it has been a drawn-out nightmare.
"It's kept them apart from their loved ones, kept them holed inside their homes with diminished group activities to boot," she said in a press call on Thursday. "It's a heartbreaking predicament and one that we should all want to resolve as soon as possible."
This initiative should also take some of the stress away from commercial testing labs, according to Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir.
"We know that some of that burden – which is good, we want them to be doing a lot of testing – is from nursing homes and prisons because of the surge testing," he said in the same press call on Thursday. "We will decrease some of that volume by the point-of-care tests both in nursing homes but in general in the community."
THE LARGER TREND
In addition to providing COVID-19, HHS has also recently completed over 14,000 inspections in nursing homes across the country – about 92% of facilities, according to Verma.
The department hopes to increase that number to 100% by the end of the month to help them create new policies on how to protect that population.
According to CMS, there are more than 200,000 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and more than 35,000 COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents as of July 9.
ON THE RECORD
"Access to rapid point-of-care testing in nursing homes will further protect our Nation's most vulnerable patients," Giroir said in a statement. "With the recent FDA Emergency Use Authorization of the BD Veritor system, combined with the earlier authorization of the Quidel Sofia and Sofia 2 systems, we now have the ability to provide more testing faster. This could not have been possible without the scientific investments made by these companies, advanced regulatory science from the FDA and other investments by the federal government."
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