After Reports of Scarcity, NYC Offers Free COVID-19 Tests For Nursing Homes

New York City is offering free testing for COVID-19 at nursing homes after reports of difficulty accessing the tests at many skilled nursing facilities, the Associated Press reported May 20.

The city will, starting next week, provide test kits and pay to process them for any of the city’s 169 nursing homes, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a May 20 news briefing covered by the AP.

New York City will also supply nurses, aides, and other staffers to help cover gaps in SNF staffing due to workers quarantining. The goal is to provide 600 temporary staffers, up from 240 thus far, according to the AP.

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The city is also looking to provide 10 “outbreak response teams,” led by epidemiologists, to help SNFs and other adult care facilities deal with COVID-19 outbreaks.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order calling for nursing homes in the Empire State to test all staffers for COVID-19 twice a week early in May, but operators in the state argued it would be difficult to comply, given testing shortages and laboratories’ struggles to meet the increased volume of orders.

While the testing directive was welcomed by the New York State Health Facilities Association (NYSHFA), which represents nursing homes in the state, the logistical challenges to securing enough tests are considerable, the association pointed out. To comply with the rule, SNFs and assisted living facilities would have to secure 370,000 tests per week for the 185,000 people who work in those settings across the state, the group said in a statement issued May 12.

“While we applaud Gov. Cuomo’s new testing directive to safeguard nursing home residents and staff, we will need significant assistance from state government to increase the availability of testing for skilled nursing and assisted living employees,” NYSHFA CEO Stephen Hanse said in that statement.

Cuomo said on May 18 that New York was delivering 320,000 test kits to nursing homes, while private labs were designating capacity to process 35,000 nursing home tests a day, the AP reported.

One 460-bed SNF in Commack, N.Y., has struggled to secure testing for residents and staff, its CEO told Skilled Nursing News earlier this month.

“With regard to equipment, if there’s going to be any testing, any patient movement, any assistance, we seem to be 100% on our own,” Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation CEO Stuart Almer said in a May 1 interview.

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