Testing the Soul of a Nation
What We Don’t Know About the Coronavirus Is Killing Senior Citizens by the Thousands
About one-third of all deaths in the United States caused by COVID-19 as of last week were at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. That’s a total of 28,100 residents and workers at these facilities cut down by the virus as of May 11, according to a New York Times investigation.
That makes testing in nursing homes a priority. But here’s the rub, according to the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL): It would cost $440 million nationwide to test every nursing-home resident and staff member just once, not including assisted-living centers. And it would cost more than $1 billion each month just to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of testing nursing-home staff once a week.
“For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in nursing homes to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for nursing homes to shoulder on their own,” says Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of the AHCA and NCAL. “That’s why we have asked HHS [the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services] to grant our request for a $10 billion emergency relief to help fund expedited testing and the additional staffing needed to respond to this unprecedented health crisis.”
The AHCA and NCAL estimate that about 5,000 of the 15,000 nursing homes nationwide have COVID-19 positive residents currently. That means an additional 10,000 homes are still at risk and are flying blind without testing. That blind spot in our pandemic response could catapult the death toll from the virus to gruesome levels well beyond the estimated 28,000 deaths already recorded at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
A letter sent earlier this month by the AHCA and NCAl to the head of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) — Trump appointee and former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar — drives home the dire need for funding for expanded nursing-home testing. From that letter:
“Many residents and caregivers of nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country…