The Sofia 2 Rapid Test Analyzer is part of the equipment being supplied to a select group of Indiana senior care facilities to test for the novel coronavirus. Provided photo
The Sofia 2 Rapid Test Analyzer is part of the equipment being supplied to a select group of Indiana senior care facilities to test for the novel coronavirus. Provided photo
INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly two dozen Indiana skilled nursing facilities will receive COVID-19 testing devices in the upcoming days as part of the latest allocation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of the 22 sites, the highest concentration of devices appears to be northern Indiana, with four devices earmarked for Elkhart County facilities.

HHS prioritized device distribution to hotspot states in the initial shipment, including Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. After distributing to hotspot states, HHS considered whether facilities had three or more confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in the last week, a new case after zero previous cases, new resident deaths or new confirmed or suspected cases among staff.

HHS also considered whether a facility reported inadequate testing access in the last week.

Among the nursing homes deemed a priority were two of CommuniCare’s 18 facilities in Indiana: Elkhart’s Valley View Healthcare Center and Indianapolis’ Eagle Creek Healthcare Center.

“(These devices)’ll help greatly by giving us the ability to test and re-test residents and staff on a consistent basis. (They) will help identify any point of infection and help prevent the spread of outbreaks with quicker interventions because we’re getting the results in a much faster time frame,” spokesperson and general counsel Fred Stratmann said via email.

As the virus continues to spread in Hoosier communities – potentially infecting staffers – and visitation reopens, Stratmann said it would help facilities establish routine testing to protect residents.

But others have expressed concerns about the accuracy of these “point-of-care” devices, which can deliver results very quickly. Some have false negative rates as high as 15%, so infections can go undetected.

HHS announced on July 14 it would send these testing supplies to all skilled nursing facilities in the nation over the next several weeks, following the emergency use authorization of quick-test devices by the Food and Drug Administration.

The announcement came as long-term care trade associations pressured the federal government to speed up testing wait times and decrease testing costs for nursing homes, which account for at least 40% of coronavirus deaths nationwide.

Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for HHS, recommended that staff be tested weekly in mid-July, according to Skilled Nursing News.

“That means four to five million tests per month. And as you know, the turnaround time is getting a bit longer. And it’s also very expensive,” Giroir said, according to Skilled Nursing. “So what we’re talking about is a point-of-care, rapid, on-the-spot, 20 tests per hours, instrument – along with tests – to every single of the 15,400 nursing homes in this country.”

HHS noted the devices – the Quidel Sofia, Sofia 2 and BD Veritor Plus Systems – are “slightly more likely to have a false negative results than molecular PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID tests,” according to Skilled Nursing.

Considering the rate of false negatives, and possible concerns about the supply chain for future kits, Golden LivingCenter said it will continue to work with physicians to “identify potential COVID-19 exposure and implement testing.”

Golden LivingCenter’s Merrillville facility qualified to receive one of the devices, though Golden Living said in an emailed statement that routine testing had already been established.

“We plan to assess how these additional resources may best be utilized. We monitor state and community COVID-19 spread and it is clear that this pandemic is an ongoing national emergency,” Wesley Rogers, the president of Golden LivingCenter’s Indiana, said. “As we head into the fall, it is our plan to maintain our diligent efforts to manage against the infiltration and spread of the Coronavirus to protect our residents and staff.”

Stratmann, of CommuniCare, noted concerns about supply access and, specifically, cost.

“Meeting testing requirements is going to be very expensive and at this point there are insufficient funds to test every employee at the rate the (state) governments … where we operate are demanding,” Stratmann said.

In May, the American Health Care Association, a trade association representing over 14,000 nursing homes, estimated it would cost over $13 million to test all Hoosier nursing home residents and staff once.

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