WASHINGTON — Nevada public health officials’ recent actions preventing nursing homes from using rapid screening tests for COVID-19 are “unjustified” and don’t follow the science on testing, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “testing czar” Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, said Friday.
The state’s actions are “not scientifically valid. They must cease their prohibition immediately,” Giroir said on a phone call with reporters. “If you need technical support,” he told the nursing homes, “we are enthusiastic to do more. Lives are at stake and our administration is not going to allow action to risk our seniors or any other vulnerable or underserved population.”
Letter Sent to Nursing Homes
On October 2, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to healthcare providers and long-term care facilities, noting that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had sent point-of-care antigen tests to nursing homes across the country — specifically, the Quidel Sofia test and Becton Dickinson’s Veritor test. The letter noted that according to the FDA’s emergency use authorization data, Quidel claimed 87% sensitivity and 100% specificity for its test, while Becton Dickinson’s numbers were 97.5% and 100%, respectively.
“However, this was based on extremely limited data,” wrote Ihsan Azzam, MD, PhD, the state’s chief medical officer, and two colleagues. The state conducted its own test after it “started receiving anecdotal reports from SNFs [skilled nursing facilities] that individuals with a positive antigen test were subsequently testing negative” with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, generally considered the most accurate. The state looked at data from 12 nursing homes that conducted 3,725 rapid tests, of which 60 came back positive. Of those, 39 were sent for PCR testing; 16 (40%) came back as true positives while 23 (60%) were false positives.
“Possible reasons for conflicting test results include lack