“Smart” COVID-19 testing protocols are needed to mitigate infection rates in senior living communities, a new white paper states, and Argentum and the senior living operators it represents are looking to partner with federal and state policymakers to create them.

Argentum’s COVID Advisory Council of industry leaders, clinical executives and other experts developed “The Need for a ‘Smart’ Testing Strategy” to make a case for just that.

“Consensus is needed to determine a testing strategy in senior living to appropriately manage COVID-19,” the white paper states. “Senior living professionals need a testing solution that is quick, available, convenient, affordable and reliable, that can be executed at point of entry/care, with timely on-site results.”

Although the organization supports the need for testing, the white paper addresses testing challenges that pose potential issues for the industry, including variable guidance on mode of testing (nasal, saliva, blood), molecular versus antigen versus antibody testing, frequency, timeliness of results, supplies, cost, reliability and the potential trauma associated with repeated invasive nasal swabs.

The paper points out that no FDA-approved COVID-19 tests are on the market and that substantial rates of errors occur. Given the issues related to testing, mandatory testing requirements rolled out by states are “inappropriate and should be based on scientific evidence and consistent guidance,” the authors state. The white paper also calls for reimbursement of mandated testing. 

“It is important to be aware that test results, even if accurate, only provide data at a point in time,” the paper states. “This is a significant consideration when deciding when and how to ease restrictions in a senior living community, and how to retain and attract a workforce willing to care for our seniors under extreme circumstances.”

Along with partnering with policymakers to develop these testing protocols, senior living operators also hope to work with public health officials “to develop contact tracing protocols to mitigate risk of infection with senior living communities and communities at large.”

“Our residents are among the most vulnerable population in our country,” the white paper states. “Other than hospitalized individuals, seniors living in communal long-term care settings, including skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care communities, are especially vulnerable to this virus.”