States could face a surge of coronavirus outbreaks at long-term care facilities as cases spike across the country and officials begin easing visitor restrictions at nursing homes.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living issued the warning Tuesday in a letter to U.S. governors. The organization stressed the need for quick coronavirus testing,  adequate supplies of personal protective equipment and staff support as state and local health agencies look to reopen facilities.

“Reopening long-term care facilities is important for our residents’ wellbeing and caregivers and providers recognize the importance of visitations of family and friends,” wrote Mark Parkinson, AHCA president and CEO, and Scott Tittle, NCAL Executive Director

AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson

“To accomplish this goal, nursing homes and assisted living communities need additional support from federal and state public health agencies in order to protect residents and caregivers,” they added. 

That support should include directing state public health agencies to expedite lab processing time and ensure providers have access to on-site testing with reliable and rapid results. A large majority of nursing homes and assisted living providers reported experiencing lab processing problems after testing residents and staff for COVID-19, a recent AHCA/NCAL survey found.

The survey also revealed that just 3% of respondents said that, on average, they receive their results back the same day, while 10% said they got results back the following day. 

Sixty-three percent, however, said that on average it usually takes two to four days to get results back, while 24% said it takes five days or more. (These results are relatively similar to findings of an informal poll of LeadingAge members taken Monday and noted here.)

The organization also called on state health officials to provide additional support on PPE supplies, especially N-95 masks, and to work in close coordination with long-term care providers on reopening facilities to visitations. 

“We urge governors and state health departments to closely monitor the situation in the general population county by county to determine if long-term care facilities need additional resources and if visitations should be halted temporarily for the safety of residents and health care workers,” Parkinson and Tittle wrote.