Eighty-seven percent of assisted living communities and nursing homes participating in a new survey said it is taking two or more days for them to obtain the results of COVID-19 tests of staff members.

The results of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living survey of 1,385 members come at a time when COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in several geographic areas.

“With a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases among the general population, we are concerned labs will get overwhelmed and receiving results for long-term care residents and staff will take even longer to obtain,” AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement.

The survey was conducted June 25 to 29. AHCA/NCAL told McKnight’s Senior Living that 25% of responses came from assisted living operators, and 17% came from facilities offering both assisted living and skilled nursing. Fifty-six percent of participants came from nursing homes, and 2% came from intellectual and developmental disabilities providers, according to the organization.

The majority (63%) of respondents said that, on average, it takes two to four days to obtain test results, and an additional 24% said it takes five or more days. Ten percent said they get test results in one day, and 3% said they get them back on the same day as the test was performed.

More than half (56%) of respondents said that lab processing time is the key barrier they are experiencing related to testing.

“The amount of time it is taking to receive testing results is hurting the ability of long-term facilities to fight the virus,” Parkinson said. “Regular testing of nursing home and assisted living staff is a vital step in controlling the spread of COVID-19 but is not effective without obtaining timely test results.”

Other issues with accessing testing, according to the survey, are cost (34%), lack of testing kits (22%), lack of local or local government support (20%), and finding lab companies to process tests (14%).

Meanwhile, as Vice President Mike Pence prepared to travel to Arizona on Wednesday, one senior living and care operator there described the testing and lab system as “overwhelmed.”

“Time is of the essence, and we need leadership from Washington to alleviate the bottleneck of tests waiting to be processed, and to ensure that labs can turn around results quickly,” said Donna Taylor, COO of LifeStream, a LeadingAge member that provides independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. “To keep as many as possible safe and healthy, we need 24-hour turnaround to test residents and staff who show symptoms.  Access to testing, with quick results and the means to pay for it, is a critical tool in our fight against this horrific virus.”

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • Months after the statewide stay-at-home order included a ban on visitors to long-term care facilities, North Carolina is lifting that restriction just a bit for some. Residents of facilities with seven or more beds with no COVID-19 cases can welcome visitors outdoors. The change specifically excluded skilled nursing facilities, including combination skilled nursing/adult care assisted living facilities.
  • South Carolina announced upcoming changes to the current visitation policy for assisted living facilities and nursing homes across the state, which will allow immediate family members to visit residents in facilities.
  • The Department of Justice warned that cards and other documents bearing the Department of Justice seal and claiming that individuals are exempt from face masks requirements are fraudulent. Inaccurate flyers and social media posts are circulating regarding the use of face masks and the Americans with Disability Act due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operations, the department said.
  • Pennsylvania has announced an expanded testing order for long-term care facilities, extending to personal care homes, assisted living residences and intermediate care facilities.
  • An Illinois assisted living facility plans to charge its residents an additional $750 to cover the cost of preventing a COVID-19 outbreak, according to a media report. Heartis Seniors Living Village in Peoria announced a one-time service fee to cover added costs incurred by the pandemic.
  • After nearly 65% of residents and 37% of staff members were determined through testing to have contracted COVID-19, Carlin House Assisted Living Directors Mindy and Chad Bailey were in crisis mode, according to a media report. The Baileys chose to shelter in place and reached out to the Ohio National Guard through the Ohio Emergency Management Agency for additional support and resources. Within six hours, the Ohio National Guard dispatched a 20-person team of airmen and soldiers with medical and ancillary staff capabilities to serve as a lifeline.
  • The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care launched a Day of Action on June 30, calling for every long-term care resident to designate an “Essential Support Person” and for that person to be permitted to visit onsite to reduce the physical and psychosocial decline brought on by visitation limits due to COVID-19.
  • A Massachusetts assisted living community already had a contingency plan in place by the time it needed to be executed, and it reports that no resident has fallen ill from COVID-19. The Residences at Orchard Grove in Shrewsbury created a plan to minimize staff and resident exposure to the virus that used creativity to minimize residents’ feelings of isolation through doorway activities.
  • When the state of Ohio implemented a stay-at-home order in March and shut down visitation in assisted living communities and nursing homes, Ohio Living Mount Pleasant, a life plan community in Monroe, OH, implemented the Smile Project. The community put the word out through churches and the school district asking for cards, letters and drawings to give residents a smile. The program has distributed more than 500 letters, cards and pictures to its campus of 400-plus residents in independent living, assisted living, nursing care and short-term rehab.
  • Some residents of The Villages retirement community in Florida worry that tensions there during the past few months may make retirees think twice about moving in. Those tensions, between the Republican majority and the much smaller cohort of Democrat residents, flared June 14 during a golf-cart parade held in honor of President Donald Trump’s birthday.
  • LeadingAge Illinois worked with other state organizations to advise the Illinois Department of Public Health on recommendations for a safe and phased-in plan on reopening strategies for assisted living communities and nursing homes.

—Bulleted items by Kimberly Bonvissuto