Oct. 30 (UPI) — Nearly one-third of skilled nursing facilities situated in COVID-19 hot spots across the United States still are waiting three days or more for virus test results for staff and residents as of the end of September, according to a report published Friday by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Nationally, just under 40% of all of these facilities — which including residential and rehabilitation centers staffed with nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and audiologists — indicated that it took three days or more to receive COVID-19 test results for residents and staff, the data showed.
The findings were as of Sept. 27, or more than two months after Medicare began to distribute rapid, point-of-care tests to generate results in one day or less to these facilities, the researchers said.
While the number of facilities receiving test results in a day or less doubled in some areas during September, researchers say the progress is not sufficient enough.
“Rapid testing turnaround is critical to prevent outbreaks in nursing homes — and elsewhere — but only a tiny fraction of homes have access to turnaround that is less than one day,” study co-author Dr. Michael L. Barnett told UPI.
“With slower turnaround, staff with COVID-19 and no symptoms will circulate in a facility and spread infection before the positive test comes back,” said Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the country were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the spring, accounting for 40% of all virus-related deaths nationally, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As a result, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began to distribute “rapid” virus testing kits to these facilities in July. The tests could be administered on-site and provide results in one day or less, agency officials said.
The agency requires facilities located in areas with low rates — less than 5% — of COVID-19 transmission to test residents and staff members monthly.
However, those based in hot spots — with up to 10% or more of virus transmission — should be testing staff and residents at least twice weekly, according to officials.
For this analysis, Barnett and his colleagues analyzed data from 15,065 — or 98% — of the skilled nursing facilities included in the Medicare COVID-19 Nursing Home Database. The database is a federally mandated weekly assessment of all Medicare-certified facilities, to examine facility-reported test result turnaround time.
As of Sept. 27, 14% of all facilities nationally said they received COVID-19 test results for staff members in one day or less, up from 6.2% three weeks earlier, the data showed.
By that same date, 10% of facilities reported getting test results for residents in one day or less, an increase from 5% earlier in the month.
In “hot spot counties” — with high rates of community spread of the virus — the number of facilities that reported test turnaround of one day or
With the coronavirus spreading out of control in many parts of the United States and daily case counts once again setting records, health experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before the pressure on hospitals mounts to the breaking point.
In some places it’s already happening, with more than 41,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the United States, a 40 percent rise in the past month.
Hospital administrators in Utah have sent a grim warning to Gov. Gary Herbert that they will soon be forced to ration access to their rapidly filling intensive-care units, and requested approval for criteria to decide which patients should get priority, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“We told him, ‘It looks like we’re going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,’ and we see no reason why it won’t,” the paper quoted Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, as saying.
In Tennessee, the Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia suspended all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay on Saturday to make room for an influx of Covid-19 patients. Most of the facility’s 26 I.C.U. beds are already filled.
Hospitals in El Paso, Texas, are preparing to airlift some critical care patients to other medical facilities in the state after a record surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to a statement from the University Medical Center of El Paso. Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the federal government to authorize the use of a military hospital at Fort Bliss, outside El Paso, to treat civilian non-coronavirus patients, his office said in a statement on Friday.
The island of Lanai, Hawaii, which has gone from zero to 65 confirmed cases in the space of a week, is so worried about its limited medical resources becoming overwhelmed that it has decided to airlift any critical Covid-19 patient off the island, though so far no patients have needed hospitalization, The Maui News reported on Saturday. County officials are expected to issue a stay-at-home order and restrict travel to the island starting Tuesday, the paper said.
Preslie Paur breaks down in tears when she thinks of her state’s refusal to mandate face masks.
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A board member, Amanda Oaks, said that while there was concern nationally about the risks of students or teachers becoming ill from coronavirus in school, “My honest fear and the fear of some of my fellow board members is that that could completely flip the other direction as soon as we get a teen suicide associated with quarantine isolation.”
Some teachers in Canyons also feel strongly about the value of keeping schools open.
The teacher who was hospitalized, Charri Jensen, who teaches sewing and design, recovered enough to go home. In an interview, she said that she wanted people to take the virus more seriously. But she also said that when she was well enough she planned to go back to work.
She had become a high school teacher because she loved the social rituals of high school — “the dances and the football games and the assemblies and the extracurricular things” — and it made her sad, she said, that her students were missing out on some of those traditions.
There are these things I want these kids to be able to experience in life,” she said. “But then, is it worth it — for life, you know?”
The increase in cases, driven by 15-to-24-year-olds, began in early September, shortly after schools reopened and students returned to colleges. The state health department believes the surge started among college-age adults in Utah County, just south of Salt Lake County, home to the state’s two biggest universities, and then spread to high school students. Mr. Walker, the Draper mayor, thinks that some teenagers in his town were infected when older siblings came home from college for the weekend.
Since the semester started, a dozen schools in Salt Lake County have temporarily shifted to online learning because of high numbers of cases.
In September, as the Canyons board put off closing Corner Canyon High School, district officials and board members said that a vast majority of cases in the district’s schools were the result of exposures outside of school and that there was minimal spread within schools themselves.