After two months and more than 11,000 deaths that have made the nation’s nursing homes some of the most terrifying places to be during the coronavirus crisis, most of them still don’t have access to enough tests to help control outbreaks among their frail, elderly residents.
Neither the federal government nor the leader in nursing home deaths, New York, has mandated testing for all residents and staff. An industry group says only about a third of the 15,000 nursing homes in the U.S. have ready access to tests that can help isolate the sick and stop the spread. And homes that do manage to get a hold of tests often rely on luck and contacts.
“It just shows that the longer that states lapse in universal testing of all residents and staff, we’re going to see these kinds of stories for a very long time,” said Brian Lee of the advocacy group Families for Better Care. “Once it’s in, there’s no stopping it and by the time you’re aware with testing, too many people have it. And bodies keep piling up.”
That became clear in some of the nation’s biggest nursing home outbreaks. After a home in Brooklyn reported 55 coronavirus deaths last week, its CEO acknowledged it was based entirely on symptoms and educated guesses the dead had COVID-19 because they were unable to actually test any of the residents or staff.