White House: Test all nursing home residents, staff for COVID-19 over next 2 weeks

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By Danielle Brown, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, May 11 2020

The White House is recommending that all states test nursing home residents and staff members for the novel coronavirus over the next two weeks. 

Vice President Mike Pence made the “strong” proposition to focus efforts on testing the about 1 million residents, along with workers, early Monday while on a video conference call with state governors, the Associated Press reported. White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, M.D., added that the federal government will help if necessary, but the administration’s position is that states must take the lead. 

“The gist of the call was just this: and that is, encouragement to do more as far as reopening, encouragement to do more and more testing,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said after the call, according to the The Hill. West Virginia is among a handful of states that have already pledged to test all nursing home residents and staff members.

“All the states now with the guidance of the federal government are going to try to get every person in all nursing homes in this country tested in the next two weeks,” Justice added. 

The topic of testing is expected to be further discussed at a Rose Garden briefing on COVID-19 at 4 p.m. ET at the White House.

The news comes after a report that found the federal government is still weeks away from publicly reporting nationwide COVID-19 nursing home data. Deaths of nursing home residents and workers make up one-third of all coronavirus fatalities, with some percentages even higher than that in foreign countries.