The federal government will be distributing nearly 1 million rapid point-of-care tests to nursing homes across the country, Assistant Secretary of Health Brett P. Giroir said during a speech in the House on Friday.
The tests will be distributed across 1,019 high-risk nursing homes by the end of this week. Giroir stated that by the end of next week, 663 more nursing homes will also be receiving the point-of-care tests.
It comes after the Trump administration announced on July 14 that it would procure a large number of FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests to be distributed across nursing homes in the United States.
Giroir stated that every nursing home would be receiving a point-of-care instrument and enough point-of-care tests for both residents and staff at nursing homes. Giroir said this is because protecting the elderly is a priority for the administration.
“Access to rapid point-of-care testing in nursing homes will further protect our nation’s most vulnerable patients,” Giroir said.
Point-of-care rests are meant to be issued directly to the source, which in this case is to detect COVID-19 by administrating the tests on nursing home patients in place instead of having patients go to medical centers or labs to be tested.
The distribution of the tests began during the week of July 20, with nursing homes prioritized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) being first to receive the tests.
“This new testing initiative is critical for keeping vulnerable older adults safe while delivering the quality of life they deserve. It gives nursing homes the ability to swiftly identify residents that need to be isolated and mitigate the spread of the virus. As one more took in the toolbox, it represents an important step towards the long-awaited reunion of residents with their loved ones,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.
While the purpose of distributing these point-of-care tests is to make sure that the residents and staff at nursing homes also receive COVID-19 testing, it also alleviates some of the pressure on commercial laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests.
Giroir stressed that testing doesn’t mean people can disregard social distancing rules.
“Testing does not replace personal responsibility. It does not substitute for avoiding crowded indoor spaces or washing hands or wearing a mask. A negative test doesn’t mean you won’t be positive tomorrow,” Giroir said.