White House goal on testing nursing homes unmet

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks with reporters about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

RICHMOND, Va. – Nearly two weeks ago the White House urged governors to ensure that every nursing home resident and staff member be tested for the coronavirus within 14 days.

It’s not going to happen.

A review by The Associated Press found that at least half of the states are not going to meet White House’s deadline and some aren’t even bothering to try.

Only a handful of states, including West Virginia and Rhode Island, have said they’ve already tested every nursing home resident.

Many states said the logistics, costs and manpower needs are too great to test all residents and staff in a two-week window. Some say they need another week or so, while others say they need much more time. California, the most populous state, said it is still working to release a plan that would ensure testing capacity for all residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities statewide.

And still other states are questioning whether testing every nursing home resident and staff, regardless of any other factors, is a good use of time and money.

“At this time it would be fairly useless to do that,” said Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone, adding that the state would have to repeat the tests almost daily to get more than a snapshot in time, and the state doesn’t have the capacity when there are others who need to be tested.

Anthone said the state was going to stick with the CDC’s guidelines, which call for testing individually when nursing home residents show symptoms or collectively if there is a new confirmed case of COVID-19 in a home.