The Department of Health and Human Services has begun allowing nursing homes, along with assisted living facilities and other congregate settings, to use point-of-care tests to screen for COVID-19.  

“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 on Aug. 31.

HHS took this action as part of 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 the U.S. 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 Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have each released guidance on the use of the testing devices in congregate settings.

Earlier in August, CMS disclosed new routine staff testing requirements for nursing homes. Per the guidance, routine testing correlates with the positivity rate in the county over the past week.