The White House on Monday announced a plan to send 18 million more rapid COVID-19 tests from manufacturer Abbott to nursing homes over the coming weeks, as part of a larger move to ship 150 million of the units across the country in an attempt to reopen schools and businesses.
Of that total, 50 million will be earmarked for “the most vulnerable communities,” President Trump said in prepared remarks at an afternoon press conference — a sum that includes the 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million for assisted living facilities, 10 million for home health and hospice providers, and one million for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).
About 100 million will be allocated to states to facilitate the testing of teachers, students, critical infrastructure employees, and populations under active outbreaks, according to the White House.
The move expands on a previously announced plan to ship the Abbott BinaxNOW devices, which rely on a nasal swab and do not require a separate machine to process the results, to the nation’s nursing homes. As of last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had sent 970,000 Abbott tests to about 7,600 facilities in designated coronavirus hotspots, assistant health secretary Brett Giroir said last Friday.
Giroir on Monday put the nursing home number at 2.1 million tests to those same 7,600 facilities. The HHS official also demonstrated the test on himself during the White House press conference, asserting that the process “almost could not be easier.”
The Abbott initiative is occurring alongside an earlier push to send point-of-care antigen testing units from manufacturers Becton Dickinson and Quidel, which Giroir last week indicated had wrapped up by the middle of September.
Both moves are intended to support nursing homes as they attempt to meet strict new testing requirements for employees, which can be as frequent as twice per week depending on the community spread of COVID-19 in the surrounding county.
LeadingAge, which represents non-profit senior service providers, pushed back on the administration’s announcement, noting that for a nursing home with 300 employees, its share of the 18 million tests would cover two weeks of twice-per-week testing.
“The reality is: this is a drop in the bucket considering the volume needed,” a LeadingAge spokesperson told SNN via e-mail.