Symptom screening for COVID-19 at nursing homes may not be effective, CDC says

Screening for COVID-19 symptoms may not be effective at preventing outbreaks at nursing homes, according to a CDC analysis of a nursing home outbreak in Washington state.

CDC researchers examined a COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care skilled nursing facility in King County occurring after a healthcare worker tested positive for the disease March 1.

On March 13, the CDC performed testing for COVID-19 and found that 30.3 percent of the residents (23 of 82 residents) had positive test results for the disease. The same day, the CDC performed symptom-based assessments. Of the 23 who later tested positive, 10 had symptoms on the date of testing, but 13 were asymptomatic. Seven days after testing, 10 of the 13 previously asymptomatic residents had developed symptoms.

Thus, "symptom-based screening in [skilled nursing facilities] could fail to identify approximately half of residents with COVID-19," researchers wrote.

Once a facility has confirmed a COVID-19 case, all residents should be cared for using CDC-recommended personal protective equipment, the researchers said.

More articles on post-acute care:
30% of nursing homes don't have N95 masks, survey finds
Patients turn away home health providers over COVID-19 fears
Nursing homes will be 'hit very hard' by COVID-19, health official warns


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