Nursing

Some states raising doubts about federal tests sent to nursing homes

Several states have curtailed using coronavirus testing equipment in nursing homes that was provided by the Trump Administration after concerns were raised about the results, including false positives that risk mistakenly sending vulnerable seniors into special COVID isolation wings that could ultimately expose them to the virus.



a plastic bag: A medical center worker holds an antibody tests kit in White Plains, N.Y., April 29, 2020.


© View Press/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE
A medical center worker holds an antibody tests kit in White Plains, N.Y., April 29, 2020.

Since July, the administration had been rushing out the machines from manufacturers Becton, Dickinson and Company and Quidel to more than 14,000 facilities around the country in an attempt to identify outbreaks faster and stem the tide of the virus, which has taken a particular toll on the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

“We have a real crisis around testing,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We don’t have the capacity to supply every facility with … the more reliable and accurate tests and the tests we do have are not accurate and unreliable.”

The machines process cheaper-to-produce kits known as antigen tests — which can yield results in 15 minutes. While other diagnostic tests for COVID-19 like PCR tests look for genetic material from the virus, antigen tests look for molecules on the surface of the virus, diagnosing an active coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests.

Although they are not perfect, many experts view these tests as an important component in the effort to fight COVID-19. The rapid turnaround time means they can be used in bulk to screen dozens of people in quick succession, with any potentially positive cases later confirmed with a more accurate PCR test. These are the tests, for instance, that the

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Some states raising doubts about federal tests sent to nursing homes, citing shaky reliability

Several states have curtailed using coronavirus testing equipment in nursing homes that was provided by the Trump Administration after concerns were raised about the results, including false positives that risk mistakenly sending vulnerable seniors into special COVID isolation wings that could ultimately expose them to the virus.

Since July, the administration had been rushing out the machines from manufacturers Becton, Dickinson and Company and Quidel to more than 14,000 facilities around the country in an attempt to identify outbreaks faster and stem the tide of the virus, which has taken a particular toll on the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

“We have a real crisis around testing,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We don’t have the capacity to supply every facility with … the more reliable and accurate tests and the tests we do have are not accurate and unreliable.”

The machines process cheaper-to-produce kits known as antigen tests — which can yield results in 15 minutes. While other diagnostic tests for COVID-19 like PCR tests look for genetic material from the virus, antigen tests look for molecules on the surface of the virus, diagnosing an active coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests.

Although they are not perfect, many experts view these tests as an important component in the effort to fight COVID-19. The rapid turnaround time means they can be used in bulk to screen dozens of people in quick succession, with any potentially positive cases later confirmed with a more accurate PCR test. These are the tests, for instance, that the White House requires everyone to take before they enter the complex.

MORE: Faster, cheaper COVID-19 tests in danger of creating blindspot in data collection

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Minn. Guard called in for COVID outbreaks at two nursing homes

In a troubling sign of COVID-19’s resurgence, the Minnesota National Guard has been called in to provide emergency staffing support at two nursing homes struggling to contain large and deadly outbreaks of the respiratory disease.

Over the past 10 days, the National Guard has dispatched small teams of medical professionals to facilities at opposite ends of the state where dozens of residents and staff have been sickened, and where staffing levels became so depleted that they turned to the state for help. Both facilities — one in the southern Minnesota city of Austin and the other on the Iron Range in Hibbing — have active outbreaks and are isolating infected residents in separate COVID-19 units.

The rare deployments come amid an alarming resurgence of COVID-19 across the region and amid mounting evidence that the virus is infiltrating Minnesota’s 2,100 long-term care facilities after declining over the summer. They also reflect how the virus is shifting toward smaller facilities in rural areas where staffing shortages are more severe.

With cases rising statewide, public health experts fear a repeat of the chaotic scenes this spring, when some senior homes became so overwhelmed they had to move residents to hospitals and get support staff to fill in as caregivers because so many employees were infected and had to be quarantined.

The use of rapid testing and stricter isolation techniques have reduced coronavirus-related fatalities in Minnesota’s senior homes since their peak in May. Even so, the list of such facilities with at least one confirmed infection in a resident or worker in the past 28 days has grown from 239 on Sept. 1 to more than 340, the state Health Department reported last week. Slightly more than 70% of Minnesota’s 2,151 coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

“There’s just a

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After White Hall case, nursing homes remain key in controlling covid

As covid-19 numbers continue to rise throughout Arkansas and Jefferson County, protecting one of the most vulnerable populations has become a priority on the state level. Nursing home residents were hit hard in the state of Arkansas at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The first nursing home case was reported by the Arkansas Department of Health on March 25 and was associated with the Waters of White Hall.

Health officials announced that the initial case at The Waters of White Hall appeared to be associated with a case linked to the original cluster at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.

Since then, the nursing home has had 51 positive residents with the most recent one reported to the health department on Oct. 1. Sixteen residents total were also reported as deceased.

In a previous interview, Donna Morton, the facility’s administrator, released a statement describing The Waters of White Hall’s “aggressive and proactive approach” against the coronavirus through “intense” methods including “monitoring, screening, education and awareness and appropriate prevention and management.”

Efforts to contact Morton on Monday were unsuccessful, but Monday’s report released by the Arkansas Department of Health showed the health care facility has 34 residents who have recovered.

Posts on their social media page pictured residents who had defeated covid-19, calling them the “true heroes.”

On Mar. 13, the Department of Health issued a directive temporarily suspending visitation to nursing homes in Arkansas to reduce the spread of the virus. The directive prohibited all visitation at long-term care facilities unless medically necessary by law enforcement or emergency personnel, a representative from the Department of Health, a representative from the Department of Human Services Office of Long-Term Care or a representative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In June the Department of Health allowed the facilities to reopen

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Medicare has online tool to compare nursing homes, doctors

Suppose you or a loved one needed to get cardiac bypass surgery. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to consult one online tool to find and evaluate a surgeon and hospital as well as a nursing home and home health services for rehabilitation after this surgery?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is betting the answer is yes.

Last month, CMS unveiled Care Compare, a streamlined redesign of eight existing CMS healthcare compare tools available on Medicare.gov.

Care Compare aims to give Medicare patients and family caregivers a user-friendly online tool to make informed decisions about healthcare based on location, cost, quality of care, volume of services, and other data, and the site is compatible for use on smartphone and tablets.

Patients can find information in eight areas: doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, home health, dialysis centers, long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation and hospice groups.

“By aggregating all eight of CMS’ quality tools into a single interface, patients can easily research different providers and facilities before they entrust themselves to their care.” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma, in announcing the new tool. The goal, she said is “ensuring the tools are robust and beneficial to patients.”

The consolidation could also boost patient awareness.

Emma Boswell Dean, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy at University of Miami’s Miami Herbert Business School, said before Care Compare, the tools were somewhat underutilized separately. “In talking to Medicare patients, they don’t even know all the tools available. Bringing them together in one tool is a really smart idea.”

Still, Dean and other experts gave Care Compare mixed reviews. While all agreed the amount of information available is important and deep, some said the tool could be easier to manipulate for seniors, while others question aspects of the underlying data. However, they all

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