CMS Administrator Seema Verma
CMS Administrator Seema Verma

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says recent revisions to its COVID-19 staff testing standards for long-term care facilities are an effort to address problems faced by rural operators attempting compliance.

The agency’s original methodology for determining how often nursing home staff should be tested for the coronavirus was based on the number of positive test results per county. But state governors have relayed concerns that high positivity rates in some rural counties were due to low amounts of testing rather than actual positivity numbers, it explained in a Wednesday announcement

“This resulted in a significant burden for nursing homes being required to conduct staff testing at a higher frequency than necessary,” it stated.

The updated methodology, reported by McKnight’s Long-Term Care News last week, now includes the number of tests conducted per county over a two-week period, as follows:

  • Counties with 20 or fewer tests over 14 days will now move to “green” in the color-coded system of assessing COVID-19 community prevalence. 
  • Counties with both fewer than 500 tests and fewer than 2,000 tests per 100,000 residents, and greater than 10% positivity over 14 days – which would have been “red” under the previous methodology – will move to “yellow.” 

“The new, resulting methodology reduces burden while still requiring facilities to conduct testing at a frequency that can detect COVID-19 early to keep nursing home residents safe,” the agency concluded.

For more on community COVID rates and nursing homes, read: Coronavirus uptick in nursing homes linked to rising community rates: AHCA

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