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

Nursing homes in states that prohibit the use of point-of-care COVID-19 tests to screen for the disease can now do so after the Department of Health and Human Services extended coverage to include congregate facilities. 

HHS announced Monday that it expanded coverage to licensed healthcare practitioners prescribing or administering point-of-care COVID-19 tests for screening purposes in congregate settings, which includes nursing homes, assisted living, long-term care and other facilities where people congregate to receive care. 

“Today’s action will expand the use of rapid point-of-care antigen tests to slow the spread of COVID-19 and continue safely reopening America,” Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D., HHS assistant secretary for health, said in a prepared statement. 

The move was done so under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. The department explained that it preempts any state and local law that prohibits or effectively prohibits those workers from administering the tests authorized by Food and Drug Administration to individuals at those facilities. 

HHS added that testing to screen for infections is a key part of the overall effort to combat COVID-19. It also noted that the FDA and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have each released guidance on the use of the testing devices in congregate settings.

CMS disclosed its point-of-care testing initiative in July. The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living warned that providers should check to make sure their states permitted the use of point-of-care testing prior to using the instruments.