Labs that process COVID-19 tests in Michigan are taking several days to get results back to nursing homes, according to the state health department.
More facilities are testing residents and staff in order to comply with a June directive from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
That order requires facilities with active COVID-19 cases to test staff and residents weekly until 14 days have passed since the last positive test. Facilities in medium to high-risk parts of the state — as of Friday, all of them — must test staff weekly, regardless of whether the virus has been detected.
According to Melissa Samuel, president of the skilled nursing industry group Health Care Association of Michigan, all of that new testing has created a backlog at labs in Michigan, delaying test results.
“When your test results are coming in five, even outwards of seven days later, it’s just not — it’s not going to work,” she said.
Delayed test results might mean the virus could go undetected in nursing facilities. According to state data, COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents make up nearly a third of Michigan’s total deaths from the disease. Cases among residents make up about a tenth of the state’s total.
Nursing homes across the U.S. are struggling to get timely test results. A survey from the American Health Care Association, with which HCAM is affiliated, shows that only 13% of skilled nursing facilities are getting results back by the next day or earlier.
Samuel says her organization and MDHHS have begun discussing rapid tests, which can deliver day-of results. One rapid test, made by Abbott Technologies, has been used widely in southeast Michigan.
But some studies have concluded that the Abbott test has a high rate of false negatives. For that reason, and the difficulty of procuring the tests, MDHHS is “not actively discussing that option for nursing home testing,” according to a spokesperson.
Beaumont Health announced this month that it had developed a COVID-19 test that can deliver results in 45 minutes. Dr. Laura Lamb, who led research on the test, said her team is “optimistic” it’ll be ready to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization under the Food and Drug Administration within a month.