Laboratory scene: Gloved hand lifts a COVID-19 diagnostic sample from a set of test tubes

Many nursing homes continue to rely on a COVID-19 test with a slower turnaround time rather than the rapid-results tests they’ve been sent by the U.S. government, according to a new report.

A Kaiser Health News analysis of federal nursing home records shows that as of Oct. 25, 38% of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes had yet to use the point-of-care antigen testing devices that were shipped to facilities starting in September. Many instead are sending samples to laboratories for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, also known as molecular tests. 

This decision has translated to days of waiting for results, compared with minutes to hours for the antigen tests.

In fact, the report’s interactive list of test turnaround times in individual nursing homes by state shows that most are waiting at least a day or more. Among the approximately 13,000 facilities that provided their testing speed to the government:

  • Only 17% of nursing homes reported an average turnaround time of less than a day.
  • Fully 29% waited three days or more on average for residents’ test results.
  • Wait times for staff member test results were similar to those of residents.

Meanwhile, a third of skilled nursing facilities reported a new suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection among residents or staff during the week of Oct. 25 (the latest available data), according to the news outlet.

The Kaiser analysis comes on the heels of a LeadingAge survey that found that 66% of member respondents had received rapid-results antigen tests for COVID-19 from the federal government, but 37% of them have not used them.