New studies have shown that one of the primary factors in the spread of COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities is the workforce.
Specifically, staff members in a facility who have the virus while not showing any symptoms of illness.
Which means whether or not those infected do begin to show symptoms or not they can still pass on the virus, rendering symptom screenings such as testing for fever and checking for cough or shortness of breath ineffective in keeping it from getting inside a SNF.
If all that is true, it makes widespread testing of staffers and residents paramount.
And while guidance on reopening nursing homes from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued on May 18 recommends that SNFs have the capacity to test staff once a week, among other benchmarks, the language of the guidelines from CMS emphasizes flexibility for states and does not appear to be a mandate, despite how forceful the recommendations are.
President Donald Trump says ramping up testing in nursing homes is imperative but individual states are in charge of securing the test kits themselves and many have not done so or have not supplied the nursing homes with the test kits needed.
West Virginia, for instance, was quick to call for testing at nursing homes and over the past few weeks other states have issued either mandates or goals to test all residents and workers in long-term care at least once.
Studies in Colorado have shown that "you have to get the asymptomatic carriers out of the facility,” and the only way you can do that is by testing them and asking them to self-quarantine for 14 days.”
The tests in Colorado led to some surprising findings. One facility with 120 patients and 100 staff saw no positive staff members while in one facility with 75 patients and 70 staff who chose to participate, 14 nurses tested positive in the first week, while “14 or 15 other staff members” were positive.
But two weeks later, those workers could return. And one other key part of catching the workers early is that the impact on cases was tangible.
“What we’ve learned is that, as we told people to go home if they’re positive, the number of new cases has gone down, down, down — down to zero in most of the facilities.
What does all of this mean? The Governors of each state need to provide enough test kits to the nursing homes so that can test staff and residents to help lower the number of new cases.
What do you think?