Important Update from Massachusetts Senior Care Association President Tara Gregorio Regarding COVID-19 Testing of Nursing Facility Residents
The Massachusetts Senior Care Association and our members are grateful to the Command Center for being the first state in the country to act by lowering the threshold for COVID-19 testing for long term care residents. To our knowledge, no other state has yet to expand testing criteria for long term care residents. This action is consistent with CDC findings released on March 27th that found a high number of asymptomatic nursing home residents in Washington state tested positive for COVID-19. Prior testing criteria included exhibiting fever and cough. The criteria have now expanded to include sore throat, malaise, body aches, low grade fever, lowered oxygen saturation, changes in mental status, diarrhea and changes in control of diabetes.
In this unprecedented crisis, this critical expansion of the testing guidelines for long term care residents will allow facilities to more quickly respond with treatment, as well as the swift implementation of isolation protocols in order to further reduce the risk of spread. In addition, the expansion of the testing criteria now means that:
- We need to rapidly expand mobile testing. The National Guard continues to perform mobile testing in nursing facilities, but we need more testing programs with quick turnaround results;
- We urgently need improved access to Personal Protective Equipment in order to protect our frontline staff and residents from this vicious virus. We believe that by expanding the testing criteria more long term care residents will test positive. Many of these residents will be treated and recover within their long term care home, but in order to do so we need PPE. We are urging that all staff wear masks, but this is only possible with the support of the Commonwealth. Many facilities are depleting within a week the monthly allocations they are receiving from their medical supply vendors; and
- We desperately need to support and give gratitude to our frontline caregivers who are working tirelessly to fight this virus and protect their residents. We can do this by providing funding that increases their wages and allow facilities to hire and put to immediate work recently furloughed health care staff.
Tara Gregorio, President, Massachusetts Senior Care Association