The federal government’s plan to ship a total of 33 million additional point-of-care tests to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the coming weeks is just “a drop in the bucket [when] considering the volume needed” by providers, observed leaders of the nation’s second largest nursing home association. 

President Trump on Monday announced that the federal government plans to distribute 150 million Abbott rapid point-of-care tests in the coming weeks, with 100 million of those tests going to states and territories to support reopening efforts. 

The other 50 million will be given to vulnerable communities, including 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities and 10 million for home, health and hospice care agencies. 

Vice President Mike Pence said the move shows that the federal government has “surged those resources and surged them to vulnerable populations.” A report by the New York Times Tuesday showed that some providers feel like the testing has been an “unfunded mandate” after discovering they have to pay additional test kits on their own.

“The numbers sound big — 150 million tests total being sent out [and] 18 million to nursing homes,” countered a LeadingAge spokeswoman in a statement.  

“A bit of simple number-crunching reveals (however) that the ‘surge of resources,’ as Vice President Pence put it, is basically enough for two weeks of twice a week testing at a skilled nursing facility with 300 employees. The reality is: This is a drop in the bucket considering the volume needed,” the spokeswoman added. 

Federal officials announced the purchase of the Abbott tests earlier this month. In mid-September, they also announced that 750,000 “or potentially more” of the rapid tests would be delivered to nursing homes in areas with high COVID-19 positivity rates. That was in addition to the point-of-care testing program that was first announced in July. Distribution of those supplies was completed by mid-September. 

The nation’s largest long-term care association, the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, took a different route compared to LeadingAge. Its leaders thanked the federal government for its initiative in supplying these point-of-care tests to nursing homes and assisted living communities. 

“Given the vulnerable population we serve and new federal testing requirements for nursing homes, it is imperative that long-term care facilities have a steady supply of reliable tests with rapid results at an affordable cost,” the association told McKnight’s Tuesday. 

“We look forward to working with the administration and Abbott to continue to ensure our nation’s nursing homes and assisted living communities have the supplies, training and guidance they need to monitor their residents and staff for COVID-19,” it added.