Thousands of rapid COVID-19 testing machines sent to nursing homes by the federal government have gone unused, and facilities are still relying on slower test results from outside labs, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. spent more than $100 million to send rapid COVID-19 testing machines to nursing homes so they could provide fast, point-of-care testing to their staff and residents. But leaders of nursing homes told the Journal they’re concerned about the accuracy of rapid tests and confused by conflicting guidelines from some states that discourage use of them.
About 30 percent of the 13,150 nursing homes that received the rapid testing machines haven’t used it to test any residents or staff members, according to a federal survey cited by the Journal. Another 16 percent reported that they had used the machines to test fewer than 20 people, and almost half reported they hadn’t used the testing equipment in the most recent week included in the survey.
But Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health at HHS, told the Journal that 99.3 percent of nursing homes recently reported being able to test their entire staffs. An HHS spokesperson told the Journal that nursing homes have ordered 4.2 million rapid tests from Becton Dickinson, which shows they’re using the machines.
The machines were sent to nursing homes in hopes of allowing them to catch COVID-19 infection early and avoid spread. Long-term care facilities have been linked to more than 88,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the Journal reported.
But Barbara Klick, CEO of Sholom, a Minnesota-based assisted living facility, told the Journal the testing machines are not what it needs. She said the machines require too much staff time, and she’s concerned about the risk of false negatives and positives from the rapid tests.
Some states have discouraged the use of rapid tests. Massachusetts has said they can’t be used to satisfy state testing mandates for nursing homes, according to the Journal.
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