The Trump Administration has nearly reached its goal of providing rapid antigen Covid-19 testing devices to all of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid program.
In a call with nursing home operators Tuesday, Adm. Brett Giroir said the Department of Health and Human Services has shipped 13,477 testing devices and more than 4.7 million tests to 13,343 facilities nationwide. Giroir is heading up the agency’s coronavirus testing efforts.
“This week, we will complete the shipments to another 507 facilities and 192,000 tests,” Giroir said.
In addition, HHS expects distribute 750,000 rapid, BinaxNOW Covid-19 tests made by Abbott Laboratories next week. The tests, which were recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, are designed to give results within 15 minutes and don’t require laboratory equipment.
“We will be distributing somewhere in the neighborhood of 750,000, or potentially more, starting next week to nursing homes that are in the red or yellow zone counties,” he said. Those areas are where nursing homes must test staff once or twice a week due to high levels of Covid-19 community spread.
The tests will be used to supplement the antigen tests which are used to test nursing home staff and residents, Giroir said.
Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that nursing homes must regularly test staff for Covid-19 or risk losing eligibility to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The required testing frequency—up to twice per week—depends on the rate of spread in the surrounding community. The higher the infection rate, the more often tests are required.
Nursing home residents must be tested if they have Covid-19 symptoms or if there’s an outbreak at the facility.
Last week, the HHS announced that Covid-19 antigen tests used to screen for the virus in congregate living facilities, like nursing homes, will be covered under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act.