Two associations representing long-term care providers on Monday called for more funding for COVID-19 testing for assisted living communities as well as skilled nursing facilities after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced a plan for the relaxing of the restrictions put in place in the nation’s nursing homes due to the pandemic.

The federal government provided guidance that nursing homes can reopen if all residents and staff members are tested and the test results are negative, and if facilities that were sites of significant COVID-19 outbreaks undergo state inspections. Nursing homes should progress through the federal government’s three-phased approach, the agency said, and should consider whether the facility has adequate access to testing and personal protective equipment, among other factors. 

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living “strongly support” the guidance from CMS for nursing homes, especially the focus on resident and staff testing, AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson said. 

“Nursing homes and assisted living communities are eager for our residents to welcome their loved ones back into facilities, yet cautious about doing this safely,” he said.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the federal government believes that sufficient testing capacity exists at the state level to support the guidance, and Parkinson called for state governments to provide funding for additional testing across long-term care settings.

“We encourage governors to use the $11 billion that has been allocated to states for expanding testing in our nursing homes, assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities,” he said. “States can also assist with logistical support in implementing such a large endeavor, with help from the National Guard or the state’s health department.”

When assisted living communities can open will depend on the states in which they operate. Facilities won’t be easing restrictions if they don’t have needed supplies, however, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said.

“The reality is that too many nursing homes and other aging services providers are still desperately in need of testing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and we don’t know when or if it’s coming. We need these tools to make reopening possible,” she said.

Any plan that does not include “immediate and consistent access to life-saving tests and PPE” for nursing homes, assisted living communities and other aging services providers, Sloan said, “is a deadly failure.”