The amount of time it is taking labs to process COVID-19 tests is the No. 1 barrier to running programs to gauge virus infections at skilled nursing centers and assisted living communities, according to a survey conducted by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

The survey by AHCA/NCAL of its members (see pdf version) found that 56 percent of nursing centers and assisted living communities said lab processing was the top barrier for access to testing.

A total of 87 percent of these providers said obtaining test results back from the lab companies is taking two days or longer, with 63 percent saying it takes two to four days and 24 percent saying it takes five days or more.

Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer, AHCA/NCAL, said the amount of time it is taking to receive testing results is hurting the ability of long term facilities to fight the virus.

“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,” he said.

“For nursing homes and assisted living communities to protect residents and staff, we need on-site testing with reliable and rapid results. With a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases among the general population, we are concerned labs will get overwhelmed and receiving results for long term care residents and staff will take even longer to obtain.”

With studies from Harvard Medical School and Brown University showing the level of infection in a surrounding community of a nursing center as the top precursor to an outbreak at a facility, these new survey results on testing are very concerning, AHCA/NCAL added.