Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

About 5,600 point-of-care testing devices have been shipped to nursing homes so far, a top federal official revealed this week. 

Overall, the Trump administration has sent more than 2 million tests and 5,670 instruments to those facilities, Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services, said during a press call Wednesday. The distribution of the point-of-care antigen testing devices to all U.S. nursing homes should be complete by the end of September, he added.

Nursing homes are being sent either the Quidel Sofia 2 Instrument or a Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) Veritor™ Plus System. The move comes after the administration announced plans to deploy the testing devices in nursing facilities in mid-July. Additionally, federal regulators this week mandated that nursing homes routinely test all staff members for COVID-19 and offer tests to residents if an outbreak occurs at a facility. 

Giroir, during a separate call on Tuesday, explained that each of these instruments can conduct at least 10 — and up to 20 — tests per hour with a 15-minute turnaround for results. 

“If a nursing home can get a highly sensitive test, according to the CMS schedule and get that back within a very short turnaround, that is certainly a viable option. But it is always better to have rapid turnaround tests that can be done frequently versus infrequent tests that have a prolonged turnaround,” Giroir said Tuesday. 

Late last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released interim guidance that laid out testing strategies for using the devices for diagnostic, screening and surveillance purposes.

“Even though there may be a slight sensitivity decrease in point-of-care antigen tests, for overall public health and overall infection control, they have been modeled numerous times to be superior and that’s why we’re offering these as an absolutely fantastic point-of-care choice,” he added. 

Nursing homes will be prioritized for resupply by the two manufacturing companies following the initial distribution, according to Giroir.