HHS Sending Second Wave of Covid-19 Rapid Tests to Assisted Living Providers

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is ramping up its Covid-19 testing support network, and senior living is included.

To date, HHS sent out 541,000 Covid-19 rapid antigen tests to 5,500 assisted living facilities across the country with a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) certificate of waiver. Another 2.6 million tests are being shipped to assisted living facilities, nursing homes, home health care organizations and hospices in the coming weeks, Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Health said during a conference call for media Friday.

But communication between HHS and industry groups regarding the shipment of rapid antigen tests has been less than clear, American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) President David Schless told Senior Housing News.

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“ASHA continues to press HHS for shipments of rapid testing kits to all senior living settings, including independent living and continuing care retirement communities and life plan communities,” he said.

ASHA is also surveying its members to assess whether they are receiving shipments of tests.

“We hope to have more information in the coming weeks,” Schless said. “Our sense is that only a fraction of the overall industry has received tests but are hopeful that is just a timing issue.”

The kits, developed by Abbott Laboratories, provide results in 15 minutes, and are authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The pharmaceutical giant was awarded a $760 million contract to deliver 150 million rapid, Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Point of Care (POC) SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests.

Additionally, HHS shipped 914,000 tests to 7,600 nursing homes in areas of the country wrestling with high rates of Covid-19 positivity. Millions more tests will be delivered to elementary schools and historically Black colleges and universities.

Giroir assuaged concerns during the call over whether the tests were susceptible to higher cases of false positives, noting that the rate of false positives will depend on the population being tested, and that some false positives are expected.

Additionally, the rapid tests – if conducted properly – will be less susceptible to false positives.

“We would not expect too significant a false positive [rate],” he said.

HHS currently has a of 3 million Covid-19 tests daily, and is surging its testing capabilities in parts of the country recording upticks in positive cases, focusing primarily but not exclusively on asymptomatic young adults, which appear to be the drivers.

HHS currently operates testing sites in Alabama, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. Additional testing sites are pending in Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas.

Covid-19 positivity rates in post-Memorial Day surge spots, particularly across the Sun Belt, are down 35% from their July peaks, Giroir said.

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