Providers are eager to learn how universal testing will be implemented, just days after Vice President Mike Pence called on states to test all residents and staff members for COVID-19 over the next two weeks.
Nursing homes are awaiting implementation details, according to LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan. She said universal testing is crucial to preventing the spread of the disease in long-term care facilities.
“With this virus someone may be fine one day and not the next, so testing must be continuous and results must come in minutes, not days. How else can we isolate infected people and keep uninfected caseworkers on the job,” Smith Sloan said during a press conference Thursday.
LeadingAge chapters also reiterated on the call the need for more information about the testing.
“We know that one-time testing isn’t enough. Until rapid testing is available for daily checks of all staff as they enter a community, our most vulnerable citizens remain at unacceptable risk. We can’t wait days for results and expect the outcomes that we all desire,” said Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge Pennsylvania.
“We’re hopeful that the new commitment to testing all residents and workers will result in meaningful action, and we’ll work as closely as possible with the Department of Health to make sure that that happens,” he added.
Following Pence’s recommendation to governors this week, President Trump suggested that universal testing should have happened earlier in the pandemic and said he’s considering mandating it for nursing home residents and staff.
LeadingAge national also revealed that a recent nationwide survey of its members found that more than half of providers expect their current supply of personal protective equipment to last at most for two weeks.
That worry goes up significantly once there is a COVID-19 diagnosis in their facility, according to Smith Sloan, who added that providers are “scraping and scrounging” for PPE and tests.
“Some [providers] tell me they are burning through a year’s worth of their PPE budget in just one month,” she said.
In other coronavirus-related news:
• The Trump administration is calling for nominations for its new Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. The commission, which was announced in late April, is designed to assess the COVID-19 response in nursing homes and identify best practices for providers.
It will be composed of leading industry experts, doctors and scientists, resident and patient advocates, family members, infection and prevention control specialists, and state and local authorities. The nomination form can be found here.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released several safety tips for long-term care operators on how to keep workers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Tips include: screening workers and residents regularly, ensuring social distancing guidelines are being followed, and continuously monitoring PPE stocks, burn rate and supply chains.