Tuesday, May 12, 2020

White House Tells States to Test All Nursing Home Residents & Staff

Yesterday, the White House recommended to state governors to test all residents and staff in nursing homes across the country within the next two weeks. This is not an order from the federal government and as of May 12 no specific written recommendation has been made. However, we expect to see states develop plans to put these recommendations into place to the extent feasible. Members should review AHCA/NCAL’s testing guidance.

Providers should prepare to meet this requirement by contacting their state health department to seek information on preferred vendors, testing protocols, availability of tests and reimbursement for testing. You should also ask the state health department what to do and document if a resident or staff person refuses to be tested. Document all your communications with the state health department and the steps you take as a result.

In absence of direction from the state health department, facilities can refer to AHCA/NCAL’s list of vendors who can provide testing in the long term care setting. This list is continually updated as new vendors and testing opportunities are available, so please check back frequently.

When testing residents and staff, providers must use PCR tests and should not use antibody tests in place of PCR tests unless instructed by your state officials. Antigen tests are new to the market and while we believe they can be used to comply with this new guidance, their availability is still very limited.

Residents who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated and wear a source control mask until placed in isolation. Providers are encouraged to follow AHCA/NCAL guidance on steps to take when COVID-19 gets in.

Providers should also explore cohorting with other positive residents, if possible. Providers should review the CDC Return to Work Criteria guidance for considerations for permitting health care providers (HCP) to return to work without meeting all return to work criteria outlined. In addition, providers should refer to CDC’s Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages for information on contingency and crisis strategies should a large number of your staff test positive. 

AHCA/NCAL is also seeking feedback from members on COVID-19 test availability and use in both skilled nursing and assisted living settings. Information from this survey will help identify challenges and advocate for more availability and clearer guidance on how testing should be used and reimbursed on a national level.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey by Wednesday, May 13 (11:59 PM EDT). 

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