Eldercare facility operators who believe they are qualified but have not yet received Abbott BinaxNOW Ag Card rapid tests for COVID-19 may email the Department of Health and Human Services at a dedicated address, the agency’s testing czar said Monday.

All operators in counties designated as “red” or “yellow” under the federal COVID-19 prevalence grading system should have received a shipment, Assistant Secretary Adm. Brett Giroir told listeners in a policy update call with LeadingAge. Those who have not may email the agency at hhsbinax@hhs.gov, he said.

Some LeadingAge members have reported that they have yet to receive a shipment, Ruth Katz, LeadingAge’s senior VP-public policy/advocacy explained on the call. 

The BinaxNOW devices are being provided partly in an attempt to alleviate the “heavy burden” on nursing homes that must test twice weekly due to their location in a high prevalence county, Giroir stated. The tests also are a stop-gap as makers of the antigen testing systems originally sent by HHS work on increasing their test supplies, he added. (These are the Quidel Sofia and Sofia 2 Instruments and BD Veritor Plus Systems.)

Image of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card
The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card

In the first week of BinaxNOW shipments, 77,600 nursing homes received 2.2 million tests. In week two, 1.1 million tests went to 7,844 nursing homes. More recently, just under 1.5 million tests were also sent to qualified assisted living communities, and about a quarter million were shipped to home health and hospice agencies, Giroir added. 

“We’re going to put about 50 million of the total 150 million [tests] to these primary causes,” he said. Another 100 million will go to state health officials or governors to be used for purposes such as school openings. But governors will also have the flexibility to “top off their nursing homes if there’s an outbreak there,” he said.

BinaxNOW is a $5 rapid-results coronavirus antigen test intended for use within the first seven days of symptom onset in individuals suspected of having COVID-19.

For more on what Adm. Giroir conveyed in Monday’s LeadingAge policy call, read:

Mandated COVID-19 testing for surveyors, ombudsman ‘under active consideration’: HHS official

Less sensitive rapid antigen tests beat lab tests, provide ‘lifesaving measure’ for assisted living: feds