Long-term care providers in Nevada are being advised to continue using point-of-care rapid testing devices provided by the federal government — despite a state order that nursing facilities immediately suspend use of them due to suspected unreliable performance issues. 

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services issued the directive to providers late last week, calling on skilled nursing facilities to “immediately discontinue the use of all COVID-19 point-of-care (POC) antigen tests until the accuracy of the tests can be better evaluated,” the New York Times first reported.

The state order is in response to several “anecdotal reports” it received from SNFs in mid-September that testing devices were producing false-positive results. 

The state later surveyed 12 facilities to investigate the issue. Of 60 positive antigen tests, 39 needed to be confirmed through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Of those 39 tests, 23 were found to be false positives and 16 were true positives. 

The department said it will continue to work closely with the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory to further investigate the issue and once more data is gathered and analyzed, it will issue formal updated guidance for the use of antigen testing for SNFs. 

LeadingAge National said it’s “recommending that members continue using antigen tests, as instructed.”

“From what LeadingAge knows now, the point-of-care antigen tests are still an acceptable part of SNFs’ testing options. We know that our members should have access to some of those antigen tests to use to allow them to meet [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] guidelines and as part of a comprehensive testing program,” Ruth Katz, LeadingAge’s senior vice president of policy, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Thursday. 

“At the same time, we are keeping abreast of the latest information — from [the Department of Health and Human Services], manufacturers, state authorities and our members — so that if it is determined that antigen tests and results are deemed unreliable, we can advise our members accordingly,” Katz added. 

Both Becton Dickinson and Quidel, the companies selected by the federal government to distribute the testing devices to nursing homes, have been investigating reports of false positives since mid-September. 

The federal government is also looking into the issue. A top health official noted that the reports were “not in excess of expectation” in late September. A joint survey by Leading and the American Health Care Association found that about 20 to 25% of SNFs have received false positive results from their equipment.