(September 4, 2020) Health authorities in Washington last week announced rules requiring all nursing homes to test employees using new point-of-care antigen testing. The new requirements took effect September 2 and will support federal and state efforts to identify early spread of the virus within nursing homes and allocate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources.
With over 4,700 coronavirus tests provided to residents and employees since last May, PioneerCare has already conducted the most comprehensive and robust testing program in the community.
PioneerCare is held up as a model statewide among long term care providers for starting facility-wide testing early, since May 27, and continuing the effort on a weekly basis.
“Our testing strategy is important to identify cases early enough to stop the potential spread within our buildings”
The first few weeks, at PioneerCare’s request, testing was led by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and conducted by members of the Minnesota National Guard. PioneerCare nursing staff led the testing efforts after that, with test samples sent to the Mayo Clinic for analysis.
According to PioneerCare CEO, Nathan Johnson, such a volume of completed tests provides insight into the disease and complements data provided by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Of the 4,700+ tests performed so far, the virus has been positively detected in a total of 15 employees and residents within PioneerCare’s living settings. Eight of the 15 were asymptomatic when the virus was detected and as of this writing, they remained symptom free.
Recent data from MDH shows that close to 40 percent of people with positive cases in Minnesota remain asymptomatic the entire time the virus is active within their bodies.
In each detected case, PioneerCare conducted an Exposure Risk Assessment and at this point, positive cases were most likely acquired not within PioneerCare, but out in the greater community.
Some may conclude that these asymptomatic cases may be false positives; however, health experts stress that with the testing procedures used by PioneerCare up to this point, false positives are highly unlikely. Such a conclusion could be dangerous.
It is important to note that asymptomatic people can and do spread the virus, and for that reason, testing, wearing masks and other protective equipment, social distancing, proper handwashing, and other preventive measures are critical tools in controlling spread.
“Our testing strategy is important to identify cases early enough to stop the potential spread within our buildings,” Johnson said. “Testing, along with vigilant attention to prevention measures, is helping us focus on our number one priority – to protect residents and staff within PioneerCare Center, Pioneer Cottages Memory Care, and Pioneer Pointe.”