The only way to safely reopen is to test, test, and then test some more. Nursing homes have been under COVID-19 lockdown orders since March. Experts both inside and outside the industry have asserted that nursing facilities can’t even think about returning to normalcy without substantially more financial and material aid from the federal government — particularly around strict new expensive testing mandates.
LeadingAge, which represents non-profit operators of nursing homes and other senior care services, has been outspoken in its criticism of the government’s response. Soon after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the multi-phase reopening plan, the group released a statement calling the proposal “not grounded in reality.”
“Our communities are tired of news conferences, photo ops, and guidance that comes without tangible resources and hands-on help,” CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in a statement. “Nursing homes and other aging services providers know how to fight the virus, but they need real help, not symbols.”
Universal COVID-19 testing in nursing homes has been slow because of the lack of leadership and funds as well as persistent shortages of testing equipment and processing delays. Let’s break down the timeline of this White House goal. On May 11, the AP reported the contents of a COVID-19 conference call. During the call, the Trump Administration instructed the governors to prioritize testing all nursing home residents within the following 14 days, with the leaders pledging support to states that needed additional testing capacity. However, no actual written guidelines on nursing home testing ever emerged from the White House.
The reason that we’re in the midst of this national tragedy is a lack of clear, concise, and decisive leadership.
The White House cannot escape the undisputed fact that CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services have the ultimate authority over nursing homes. CMS can effectively take away through the termination of its right to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.