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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