Nursing homes in hot spots to test staff weekly, CMS says

July 24, 2020

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires—rather than simply recommends—that nursing homes in states with a 5 percent positivity rate or greater for COVID-19 test all staff each week.

“This new staff testing requirement will enhance efforts to keep the virus from entering and spreading through nursing homes by identifying asymptomatic carriers,” the agency said.

The new requirement follows an announcement that the agency will distribute more than 15,000 rapid point-of-care (POC) testing devices to nursing homes in COVID-19 hot spots to facilitate testing of staff and residents. Each nursing home will receive one diagnostic test instrument and associated tests, CMS said.

The agency plans to distribute the BD Veritor system and the Quidel Sofia and Sofia 2 systems. The systems use antigen tests that detect fragments of proteins found on or within SARS-CoV-2 by testing samples collected from the nasal cavity using swabs, providing results in minutes.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also will allocate $5 billion from the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to Medicare-certified long-term care facilities and state veterans’ homes to help them respond to COVID-19. The funds can be used to improve infection-control policies, add staff, increase testing or other measures. Nursing homes must complete an online, 23-module training program developed by CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to qualify for the money.

According to CMS, there are more than 200,000 confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and more than 35,000 COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents as of July 9, 2020. The CDC recommends that nursing homes perform baseline testing of all residents and staff, followed by regular screening and surveillance through routine testing to detect potential outbreak situations early and reduce morbidity and mortality.

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