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Nevada Revokes Halt on Rapid Antigen Testing in Nursing Homes

A week later, however, Admiral Giroir cracked down on Nevada’s “illegal” prohibition on BD’s and Quidel’s tests, which he said had imperiled the residents and staff of nursing homes across the state. “They cannot supersede the PREP Act,” he said.

The false positives that had emerged, Admiral Giroir said, were not only expected but “actually an outstanding result.” No test is perfect, he said.

In the Nevada statement, Dr. Azzam reaffirmed his concerns with the number of false positives that had arisen. “If this laboratory data discrepancy had been reported to Dr. Giroir, we would hope he would have taken the same action as Nevada,” he said. “We too want more testing with rapid turnaround in Nevada, but the results of those tests must be accurate, as they affect clinical care.”

The state’s nursing facilities can resume use of BD’s and Quidel’s products, according to a new Nevada directive issued on Oct. 9. But Nevada’s department of health also recommended that all antigen test results, positive or negative, be confirmed by a laboratory test that relies on a slow but very accurate and reliable technique called polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R. False negatives, officials noted, risk exposing healthy people in nursing homes to someone who is unknowingly contagious. False positives, on the other hand, could prompt the placement of a person who is well into a unit with sick people, also increasing the chance of infection.

“Both of these scenarios could result in causing harm to a population that we have collectively worked so hard to protect,” the directive said. State health officials, it said, would also continue to investigate the use of BD’s and Quidel’s products.

“We need to better understand the issue before encouraging mass use of such tools among our most vulnerable citizens,” Dr. Azzam said. “We

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HHS testing official warns Nevada must drop antigen testing ban

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COVID-19 widespread testing is crucial to fighting the pandemic, but is there enough testing? The answer is in the positivity rates.

USA TODAY

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ top testing official said Friday Nevada’s ban on rapid coronavirus tests in nursing homes could “endanger lives” and urged state health officials to immediately reverse course.

Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir said Nevada would face unspecified enforcement actions if state health officials did not remove an order instructing nursing homes to discontinue use of point-of-care antigen testing machines made by two companies, Quidel and Becton, Dickinson.

HHS  “expects immediate action from Nevada to reverse its unwise, uninformed and unlawful unilateral prohibition,” Giroir said Friday in a phone call with reporters. “Lives are at stake and our administration is not going to allow actions to risk our seniors or any other vulnerable or underserved population.”

Nevada health officials did not immediately return calls or emails from USA TODAY.

On Oct. 2, Nevada officials ordered nursing homes and other long-term facilities to discontinue use of the antigen testing instruments authorized by Food and Drug Administration “until the accuracy of the tests can be better evaluated.”

 (Photo: Becton, Dickinson)

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services chief medical officer and two other high-ranking health officials cited a high rate of false positive results at eight facilities that used the antigen tests, according to a bulletin for nursing homes and health-care providers.

But Giroir said Nevada’s ban represents a misunderstanding of the role of testing machines in screening large numbers of people who might unknowingly pass the virus to others.

HHS has purchased and sent rapid antigen testing instruments to nearly 14,000 nursing homes nationwide as part of a strategy to protect vulnerable seniors. Deaths in nursing homes represent up

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