WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s plan to supply each nursing house with a quick COVID-19 testing machine comes with an asterisk: The federal government received’t provide sufficient check kits to test workers and residents past an preliminary couple of rounds.
A program that appeared like a recreation changer when it was introduced final month on the White Home is now prompting considerations that it may flip into one other unfulfilled promise for nursing houses, whose residents and workers signify a tiny share of the U.S. inhabitants however account for as many as four in 10 coronavirus deaths, in line with some estimates.
“I feel the largest worry is that the devices could also be delivered however it received’t do any good, if you happen to don’t have the check kits,” mentioned George Linial, president of LeadingAge of Texas, a department of a nationwide group representing nonprofit nursing houses and different suppliers of elder care.
The weekly value of testing workers may vary from greater than $19,000 to just about $38,000, in line with estimates by the nationwide group. LeadingAge is urging the administration to arrange a nationwide testing program to take over from the present patchwork of state and native preparations.
The Trump administration responds that nursing houses may cowl the price of ongoing testing from a $5 billion pot offered by Congress, and allotted to the services by the White Home.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the Well being and Human Providers division’s “testing czar,” not too long ago informed reporters that the federal government would solely provide sufficient kits to check residents as soon as and workers twice. However Giroir mentioned officers have made preparations with the producers so nursing houses can order their very own exams, for a lot lower than they’re presently spending.
Giroir acknowledged that the administration’s effort to supply a minimum of one fast-testing machine to every of the nation’s 15,400 nursing houses is a piece in progress, however mentioned it’s a prime precedence nonetheless.
“This isn’t wrapped up with a bow on it,” Giroir informed reporters on a latest name. “We (are) doing this as aggressively as attainable.”
This system is on observe to ship 2,400 fast-test machines and tons of of hundreds of check kits by mid-August, Giroir mentioned, with the gadgets and provides first going to nursing houses in virus sizzling spots.
Nevertheless, informational supplies from the Facilities for Medicare and Medicaid Providers, or CMS, say getting a machine to each nursing house may take 14 weeks. That will imply deliveries will not be accomplished till early November. In Texas alone there are greater than 1,200 nursing houses, Linial mentioned, and just a few dozen have gotten them.
“A part of the issue is assets and an absence of readability about who pays for this sooner or later.” mentioned Tamara Konetzka, a analysis professor on the College of Chicago, who makes a speciality of long-term care points. “Doing one spherical of testing doesn’t actually clear up the issue in a pandemic that might final months or years.”
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Again within the spring, the primary White Home plan to check all nursing house residents for the coronavirus fell flat. It amounted to a name for states to hold out the testing, and a few ignored it.
The stakes are larger now as a result of the virus has rebounded in lots of communities and threatens to unfold uncontrolled. Nursing house residents are notably susceptible. They’re older and plenty of have underlying medical issues related to extra extreme instances of COVID-19, even loss of life. They reside in shut quarters, splendid situations for the virus to unfold.
Consultants say the coronavirus most likely will get into nursing houses through staffers, who unwittingly carry it from the encircling neighborhood. Common testing is seen as important to guard individuals residing and dealing in services, and the CMS company is engaged on rules to require weekly testing of workers in areas the place the prevalence of the virus is 5% or better.
The devastating toll amongst nursing house residents has change into a politically delicate subject for President Donald Trump, who’s making an attempt to carry onto assist from older voters in November’s elections.
The machines the administration is sending to nursing houses carry out antigen exams, which test for fragments of the virus protein in samples collected from an individual’s nostril. The exams take about 20 minutes to run, from begin to end.
The gold customary coronavirus check is completely different. Often known as a PCR check, it identifies the genetic materials of the virus.
Nursing houses produce other considerations about this system, past prices.
For instance, antigen exams can generally return a unfavorable consequence when an individual really has the virus. A authorities steering doc for nursing houses says the exams “don’t rule out” COVID-19.
Giroir mentioned the antigen exams are getting used for ongoing surveillance and monitoring, to not make a definitive analysis.
“We aren’t routinely repeating unfavorable exams,” he mentioned. “That type of defeats the aim.” The administration is working to make clear the steering.
Nursing houses which have begun getting the machines can also be at the hours of darkness about learn how to function them accurately.
“It’s not precisely as marketed,” mentioned Steve Fleming, president of the Effectively-Spring Group, a retirement neighborhood in North Carolina that gives complete retirement providers. “It’s an advanced course of to finish the check.”
The administration says the producers of the machines are supposed to supply coaching and technical assist.
Related Press author Kelli Kennedy in Miami contributed to this report.
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