Testing a nursing home resident for COVID-19 more than once in a 24-hour period is not being encouraged by the federal government under updated guidance. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the weekend released consolidated recommendations for COVID-19 testing, which included revisions to the testing guidelines for nursing homes.

The updated guidance also recommends that providers test symptomatic residents for other causes of respiratory illness, like the flu, in addition to coronavirus testing. 

The clarifications are a “positive development” for the long-term care industry, said Christopher Laxton, CAE, executive director of AMDA – The Society For Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. 

“Including the fact that there are other respiratory illnesses that our population lives with, I think is really a helpful piece of clarity because as you know we have a population with multiple conditions,” Laxton told McKnight’s

The guidance also called for providers to coordinate repeat testing efforts — after initially testing all residents and staff members — with local, territorial and state health departments in response to a new outbreak. Repeat testing should be done until there are no new cases among residents or workers at least 14 days since the most recent positive result. 

In areas where testing capacity is limited, the CDC suggests that repeat rounds of testing should be focused on residents who leave and return to a facility or those that have had known exposures. 

“The CDC guidance does allow for essentially only looking at high-risk cases if there is inadequate access to testing,” Laxton noted. “We know there’s a number of nursing homes still struggling to get good, rapid access to testing, and at the same time if they have it, the labs may not be able to turn these test results around [quickly].” 

Laxton also said that the “jury is still out” on antibody testing and hopes they will become a more reliable and “useful tool” for treating residents and helping distinguish non-infectious and infectious particles.