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 Feds to Deliver Point-of-Care COVID-19 Testing Devices to 2,000 SNFs

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Admiral Brett Giroir on Tuesday said point-of-care COVID-19 testing devices will be delivered to 2,000 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) next week, with the aim to eventually have every one of the more than 15,000 SNFs in the country enabled with such machines.

Giroir said the devices can perform 20 tests per hour, and Verma said the technology will be used for both staff and residents at nursing facilities. Which facilities get the devices first will be determined on a needs basis and focus on hot spots where coronavirus infection rates are spiking, Verma said.

In reacting to the news, Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said the development is welcome news for long term care residents, staff, and providers.

“Repeated, ongoing testing is the only way we are going to beat this virus,” he said.

“Regular testing of nursing home and assisted living staff is a vital step in controlling the spread of COVID-19 but is not effective without obtaining timely test results. For nursing homes and assisted living communities to protect residents and staff, we need on-site testing with reliable and rapid results.”

Parkinson noted that the facilities that will receive these machines will be able to conduct on-site testing and receive timely results. Recently, 87 percent of nursing facilities and assisted living communities said obtaining test results back from laboratory companies is taking multiple days to process.

“Due to the nature of this virus, every interaction is a risk. Social distancing is not an option, as residents need personal, one-on-one care and assistance with daily activities,” he said. “That is why nursing homes and assisted living communities have been calling for access to additional testing, personal protective equipment, and staffing.”

With the proper resources, Parkinson explained, long term care facilities can better identify who has the virus and make tactical decisions to protect residents and staff. “We look forward to working with HHS and Administrator Verma to expand this program and make rapid testing widely available for more providers in the coming months,” he added.

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