The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week announced that it would invest more than $12 billion in expanding testing for COVID-19, with a $255 million contract for the production and delivery of 50 million rapid point-of-care antigen tests to long-term care facilities.
The contract covers 50 million Abbott BinaxNOW tests “to support continued screening testing in long-term care facilities,” according to a release from HHS.
The Abbott tests use a card to show positive or negative COVID-19 results, rather than requiring another instrument to test the samples, according to a fact sheet about the tests that HHS released last fall.
When the federal government first announced its initiative to send COVID-19 test kits to nursing homes in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis in July 2020, the original test devices were the BD Veritor system and the Quidel Sofia and Sofia 2 systems. But by October 2020, many nursing homes were using the Abbott tests over the BD and Quidel ones, according to then-HHS assistant secretary for health Adm. Brett Giroir.
HHS announced a push to send Abbott tests to nursing homes in September, 2020, and operators told Skilled Nursing News in fall 2020 that for the most part, the supply of the Abbott tests was steady, compared with supplies for the other two testing devices. In December, as emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines were coming through, HHS committed to maintaining its contract with Abbott for the tests.
“We have increasing — and I would say definitive evidence from multiple academic and other sources — that Binax tests in particular are highly sensitive and specific for both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, and for both adults and children,” Giroir said in December at the announcement of the Abbott contract extension.
Nursing homes are required to meet specific testing thresholds for staff and residents based on the prevalence of COVID-19 in their surrounding communities, and even though health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities were prioritized for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, worker uptake notably lagged resident uptake at least in the early rounds of clinics.