'It's not what we need': 30% of nursing facilities haven't used federal-supplied COVID-19 rapid testing equipment

The federal government undertook a $116 million initiative to supply the nation's nursing homes with rapid COVID-19 tests, but citing concerns of inaccuracy and discrepancies between state and federal guidelines, industry experts say it's not what they need, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

Out of 13,150 facilities that received rapid testing equipment, about 30 percent said they hadn't used it at all for at least two weeks after it arrived, according to CMS survey data released Oct. 25. About 41 percent of nursing homes where local outbreaks require federal testing once a week said they haven't used the equipment in the most recent week, according to WSJ. About 4,900 facilities that didn't use the equipment were waiting a day or more for lab results. 

"It's not what we need," Barbara Klick, RN, CEO of Minnesota-based Sholom Community Alliance, told WSJ. "It's too unreliable." Instead, the organization uses a lab to test about 500 staff members per week at two of its facilities. The rapid equipment also takes up too much staff time, Ms. Klick said. 

Some states including Massachusetts and North Dakota aren't recognizing rapid antigen tests as valid or are discouraging their use, causing confusion and extra work for nursing homes. Since rapid tests are more vulnerable to providing false negative or positive results, public health officials recommend lab-based follow-up testing, so using the rapid tests "seemed like a waste of effort," Sandy Gerving, the administrator of Marian Manor Healthcare Center in Glen Ullin, N.D., told WSJ. 

Federally supplied rapid tests are made by Becton Dickinson, Quidel and Abbott, and despite the findings, an HHS spokesperson told WSJ nursing homes have ordered an additional 4.5 million tests. 



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