Testing every assisted living resident and staff in Florida could cost tens of millions

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Scott Title speaking at a general meeting in 2018 - AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION/ NATIONAL CENTER FOR ASSISTED LIVING FACEBOOK
  • American Health Care Association/ National Center for Assisted Living Facebook
  • Scott Title speaking at a general meeting in 2018

A new study suggests that testing every assisted living and nursing home resident and staff member for COVID-19 just once across Florida could cost $43 million dollars.

The study, conducted by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, predicts that for the entire country it would be over $672 million dollars to test every assisted living and nursing home resident and staff member just once.

Florida has 701 nursing homes and 3,405 assisted living communities each with over 70,000 residents, according to the study. It also states that nursing homes have over 95,000 staff members while assisted living communities have just over 35,000 staff members.

Florida is the second most expensive state to test every single staff and resident of assisted living and nursing homes in the country after California which would cost over $68 million.


“With seniors among those most susceptible to the virus, the assisted living profession, in particular, is facing historic challenges when it comes to our most sacred charge – the health and safety of our residents," said Scott Tittle, Executive Director of the National Center for Assisted Living.

The study differentiates nursing homes and assisted living centers on the basis of the care each one provides. Assisted living offers a more independent long term care while nursing homes have skilled caretakers who often offer therapy as more round-the-clock care.

"For months now, we have been advocating for expanded and priority testing in long term care facilities to protect our residents and caregivers, but this is a significant undertaking and cost for them to shoulder on their own," said Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living.
Mark Parkinson speaking at a meeting for the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living - AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION/ NATIONAL CENTER FOR ASSISTED LIVING FACEBOOK
  • American Health Care Association/ National Center for Assisted Living Facebook
  • Mark Parkinson speaking at a meeting for the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living

Since the coronavirus has disproportionately impacted the elderly population the most, the positivity rate and the death toll among this age bracket are relatively high across the country.

In Florida, there have been over 1,600 combined residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that have tested positive for COVID-19 and over 2,100 staff members have also tested positive, according to a Florida Health Department report.

In Orange County alone, there have been five coronavirus related deaths among nursing home and assisted living facility residents and staff, according to the Florida Health Department.

The American Association for Retired Persons predicts that states are underreporting positive cases due to a lack of testing in facilities.

"Unfortunately, shortages of testing and PPE continue to be a challenge nationwide and because assisted living communities are not medical facilities, they have not been prioritized for testing or supplies,” Tittle said.

This comes after news that the CDC declared that antibody tests are positive only half of the time and while the study conducted was based on COVID-19 diagnostics tests, not antibody tests, it raises questions for testing accuracies.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of many COVID-19 diagnostics tests which accelerated the process of accepting and utilization of new tests. NBC News reports that many tests used to diagnose a patient with COVID-19 can miss up to 20% of positive cases, thus lead to an underreporting of residents or staff within nursing homes or assisted living facilities that have the novel coronavirus.

On May 5, Gov. DeSantis said nursing homes with staff or residents believed to be suffering from or those that have tested positive for COVID-19 have to be isolated from other residents and staff. DeSantis has not made testing every nursing home resident and staff member mandatory but 5 other states have.

"Assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct aid, despite also serving vulnerable seniors," Parkinson said. "While building on support received from HHS, we are asking for additional consideration for all long term care facilities, whether it be in regard to additional testing, personal protective equipment, or funding.”

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