JAMA Internal Medicine published a research letter showing that nursing homes fail to provide quick effective tests for COVID. The vast majority of test result turnaround times at nursing homes take substantially longer than the 24 hours recommended. This includes residents and staff. The 24 hour period is needed for effective infection control.
The researchers at the University of Rochester in New York analyzed data from the Medicare COVID-19 Nursing Home Database. Nursing home residents are over 40% of all US COVID-19 deaths. In July, CMS sent point-of-care testing kits but the tests were unreliable and turnaround times ineffective.
At 15,065 nursing homes, test results took less than 24 hours for only 713 (4.8%) of those testing residents and 960 (6.2%) of those testing staff by Sep 7. By Sep 27, rates had risen slightly, to 1,516 (9.5%) of homes testing residents and 2,188 (13.5%) testing staff.
“Although testing delays improved over time, the state of testing is far behind the less than 24-hour turnaround that epidemiological modeling suggests is essential to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in [facilities],” the authors wrote. “Conflicting regulations and testing supply shortages may be hampering efforts to take advantage of these devices.”