OLYMPIA — Washington won’t meet its goal of completing broad testing of most nursing home residents and workers for the new coronavirus, citing a shortage of testing supplies.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health (DOH) Friday also announced it has made little progress so far on broad testing of memory care units in assisted living facilities. The agency has hoped to complete that goal by June 26.
The setback comes as Washington has struggled to secure enough testing materials and medical-protective gear as it competes against other states and nations for scarce supplies amid the global pandemic.
Late last month, Gov. Jay Inslee and state Health Secretary John Wiesman announced a plan to complete broad testing of nursing homes by June 12.
The idea was to achieve robust testing in the types of places that since the beginning of the outbreak have been epicenters of both COVID-19 cases and ensuing fatalities.
The tests are being conducted on all residents who consent, as well as facility staff, provided they don’t have a documented medical reason for not being screened.
But a shortage of some COVID-19 testing supplies has hampered those efforts as of Friday afternoon, the day of the deadline, according to a DOH statement.
“While teams across the COVID-19 response are working around the clock to support this process, inconsistent supplies remain an issue,” according to the statement. “Most recently, a shortage of shipping containers and cold packs has created complications for facilities looking to return samples to a lab for processing.”
“This means that some facilities may not be able to successfully finish the testing process for all staff and residents by the June 12 deadline,” the release added.
So far, 187 nursing home facilities have either completed testing, received testing materials or have those supplies en route, according to the release. The state is waiting to get confirmation from another 22 facilities about how many tests they may need.
The broad testing plan did not apply to facilities that already finished a COVID-19 prevalence survey of their workers and residents and staff on or after April 1.
Meanwhile, testing is also slow so far for memory-care units in assisted living facilities, which state officials had hoped to test by June 26.
“Few shipments have gone out to memory care units as most are still being called to confirm their supply needs and update their status,” according to the statement. “DOH is working hard to get facilities the supplies they need to complete testing.”
“However, if the deadline is missed, they will not be fined, and are just asked to complete testing as soon as feasible,” the release added.