Testing every U.S. assisted living community and nursing home resident and staff member for COVID-19 one time would cost $672 million, according to data released Wednesday by the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living.

The organizations said Wednesday that the assisted living testing would cost $232 million. The estimate comes a week after AHCA / NCAL calculated that one-time testing of all nursing home residents and staff members would carry a $440 million price tag.

Costs for ongoing testing would be “unsustainable” without continued support from federal and state governments, the associations said. 

“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. Assisted living communities have yet to receive any direct aid, despite also serving vulnerable seniors,” AHCA / NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. “While building on support received for the Department of Health and Human Services, 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.”

The two associations on May 18 called on governors to use the $11 billion allocated to states to expand COVID-19 testing for assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a plan to relax restrictions put in place at nursing homes during the pandemic.

AHCA / NCAL reports that 42,382 assisted living communities in the country are home to more than 1 million residents and have almost 455,000 staff members. When combining data, the total number of initial tests needed for both assisted living communities and nursing homes is almost 4.5 million, the organizations said.

California is facing the highest cost for testing — almost $69 million — for 458,268 tests for assisted living facilities and nursing homes, according to the calculations. Alaska has the smallest bill, $588,900, for 3,926 tests for assisted living and nursing homes.

NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle said shortages of testing and PPE supplies continue to be a challenge because assisted living communities are not medical facilities and have not been prioritized by the government.

“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,” Tittle said Wednesday in a statement. “We encourage our elected leaders to prioritize our most vulnerable and those who care for them in long-term care settings as they allocate these critical resources.”

Last week AHCA / NCAL called for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach from states to increase staffing, protect caregivers and support long-term care facilities dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Also last week, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that almost one-third of their members still face challenges with supplies, staffing and testing.

AHCA / NCAL, Argentum, ASHA and LeadingAge continue to ask federal and state governments not to forget senior living operators when it comes to funding. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that nursing homes with six or more certified beds would be eligible for funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but long-term care leaders remain disappointed that funding continues to overlook the senior living industry.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • 43% of COVID-19 deaths are in assisted living communities and nursing homes housing 0.6% of the the U.S. population, according to an analysis for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity.
  • Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready as early as November.
  • Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if one became available, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • As wearing masks becomes the norm, individuals with a disabling hearing loss and rely on lip reading are left out of the conversation.
  • Massachusetts is looking into outdoor visitation for long-term care residents as the state begins to ease restrictions in other areas.
  • The Arizona Health Department says the state’s 2,500 assisted living facilities are next on the list for testing for COVID-19. 
  • Delaware will require universal COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, and staff members will be tested on a weekly basis.
  • Assisted living and personal care buildings will be part of a later community phase of testing in Kentucky. But a COVID-19 case reported to the state may move a facility up on the list. 
  • Louisiana’s coronavirus infection and death data do not include adult residential facilities outside of nursing homes, where the toll is much higher.
  • Although $4.9 billion in aid from the CARES Act is going to nursing homes, finding a suitable mechanism at the federal and state levels for assisted living communities is a challenge. In Virginia, assisted living communities — including memory care units — are licensed and regulated by the Virginia Department of Social Services and do not receive Medicaid funding.
  • Accuracy issues continue to plague the Pennsylvania Department of Health as it collects and documents coronavirus infections and deaths among long-term care residents and staff.
  • The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did not act promptly in identifying outbreaks in assisted living communities and nursing homes and is now scrambling to stem the tide of cases and deaths. “Even with comprehensive testing, asking nursing homes and ALFs to avoid the virus entirely during a pandemic may be nearly impossible, Veronica Catoe, CEO of Florida Assisted Living Association, told the media outlet.
  • Staff members who sheltered-in-place with residents at The Inn at SharonBrooke and The Inn at Chapel Grove in Ohio ended their “sleepovers” and went home without a single case of COVID-19 penetrating their assisted living communities.
  • LeadingAge authors say that publicly subsidized senior housing communities also need support to fight COVID-19.
  • A Florida assisted living community ignored information about asymptomatic people being able to spread COVID-19, according to a media report. Now it is shuttered by the state after dozens of staff and residents reportedly fell ill.

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