Half of states won't meet White House deadline for nursing home testing: AP review

Half of states won't meet White House deadline for nursing home testing: AP review
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At least half of the states in the U.S. won’t meet the White House’s deadline for nursing home coronavirus testing, according to a review published Sunday by The Associated Press

The White House told governors about two weeks ago that all residents and staff members in nursing homes should be tested for the coronavirus within 14 days, to prevent the virus from spreading unknowingly among the vulnerable population.

But the AP’s review determined at least half won’t have the testing done by then, with some states not even attempting to meet the deadline. A few states, like West Virginia and Rhode Island, say they have already tested every nursing home resident for COVID-19.

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State officials cited the overwhelming cost and the challenges of gathering enough test administrators, when explaining why the two-week deadline would not be met, according to the AP. For example, officials from California, the state with the highest population, told the AP it was still developing a plan to ensure all nursing home residents and staff are tested.

Vice President Pence hosted a private call with governors, during which White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said each state should focus on testing in nursing homes to reduce the death toll. Birx said on Friday the deadline would be challenging but said it was necessary.

“We should never be discouraged by those who can’t get it done,” she said, according to AP. “We should be encouraged by those who have shown us that it can be done.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 36,000 residents and staff in nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, according to the AP. This amounts to more than a third of all of the coronavirus deaths in the U.S. 

The American Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group, told the AP that more than half of its members said they could not meet the deadline for testing all residents and staff because of a lack of access to tests. It predicted that testing all residents and staff would involve testing almost 3 million people and cost $440 million.

Those in nursing homes are usually older and frequently have underlying health conditions, putting them at a higher risk to die from the coronavirus.