Federal lawmakers are stressing the need for a mandatory coronavirus testing strategy as discussions surrounding a third COVID-19 relief package push forward. A national testing plan has been among the top concern from nursing home providers and advocates since the public health crisis began.

House Democrats have requested that a national strategy be a mandatory directive to states from federal health officials. White House staffers have suggested it be a voluntary plan to help states respond to the crisis, according to a report by Inside Health Policy. 

The press secretary for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote on Twitter that the two sides are closer to reaching a compromise this week. 

“While there was some encouraging news on testing, there remains work to do to ensure there is a comprehensive testing plan that includes contract tracing and additional measures to address the virus’ disproportionate impact on communities of color,” Drew Hammill wrote Saturday. 

A report released by a group of Democratic senators in July found that the government’s failure to implement a national testing strategy was among causes of the pandemic’s deadly impact in nursing homes.

Earlier this month, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan stated the absence of a national plan has been a part of the “administration’s weak response to COVID-19.”

“No national testing strategy; No supply chain that prioritizes care providers so they can test and care for their residents; Insufficient funding for the extra staff hours needed to care for residents, to pay for  testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and enhanced infection control — and to also keep care providers from closing down,” Sloan said. 

“Nursing homes and aging service providers have operated for the last seven months in a constant state of fear of not having the resources and support to protect older people from a virus that kills the elderly disproportionately,” she added.