CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The federal government just announced it is ramping up Covid-19 testing in nursing homes, sending about 400 tests to each facility nationwide with rapid results that could come back as fast as 15 minutes.
19 Investigates sat in on a media call with top U.S. health officials to hear firsthand how the Trump administration is trying to fight the virus in nursing homes.
Four months into the pandemic, officials said new point-of-care testing will help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
There have been about 35,000 deaths among nursing home residents nationwide, according to federal data.
The tests will first go to virus hotspots like Florida, Arizona, Texas and California.
Here’s Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Our seniors and our vulnerable need these now. One of the technologies was just approved last week,” he said on the phone call.
Each nursing home will get a test reader.
The goal is to test every nursing home resident.
And each week for a month, nursing homes will test all employees as a part of the the initial round of the plan.
“In other words we want to give them a machine, we want to give a few weeks tests to get started, we don’t want any delay particularly at the high risk nursing homes,” said Admiral Giroir.
The average nursing home will get 400 tests to start, but the number of tests will vary depending on the size of the facility.
After those tests run out, nursing homes can order more at a cost of about $20.
That’s compared to the full test cost of $100.
“And so by being able to do these Point-of-Care tests with a turnaround time of 15 minutes, it allows the nursing homes to take action in terms of infection control procedures,” said Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Here in Ohio, 70 percent of Covid-19 deaths are nursing home residents.
We reached out to Paula Mueller, founder of Elderly Advocates, a local non-profit.
Here’s her reaction to the plan:
“I will believe it when I see it. With nursing homes being ground zero and so many deaths, it is our opinion no meaningful progress has been made to address nursing homes at the federal or state Level,” Mueller said in an email.
The tests will be sent to more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide.
They'll ship next week to the most vulnerable facilities.
Officials said it’s too early to know which facilities will get tests first, and how many they will be sent.