Testing inside nursing homes ramping up

Posted at 12:19 PM, May 09, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — As the state continues to ramp up its testing capacity, Governor Andy Beshear says Kentucky now has the ability to test every single resident in a nursing home within the state.

It's been two months since the state suspended family visits to long-term care facilities.

In that time, 10% of all nursing home residents have been tested for the coronavirus. The hope over the next two months is to get to 100%.

"So it is a very aggressive strategy where we are now going to be very targeted in making sure we know the situation in each of these facilities, especially for the most vulnerable," said Beshear.

Nursing homes across the country have been ravaged by COVID-19, proving to be hotspots for the virus. In Kentucky, 176 people in nursing homes have died, which is 59% of all coronavirus related deaths in the state.

"We ended up in a place where a month ago, we were still very worried about how much testing could we do," said Dr. Eric Friedlander.

Procuring PPE was another source of concern, but Dr. Friedlander, the Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said just this week that the federal government has stepped in to help on that front.

"And they have started delivering personal protective equipment to nursing homes across Kentucky to make sure they have a 14-day supply," said Dr. Friedlander.

But testing will be an endeavor led by the state in partnership with North Healthcare and local health departments. Administration officials will look at eight metrics to determine which facilities should be tested first.

"We have things like the rate of increase in positive tests. We have things like their location in a county that may have high rates of COVID-19," said Friedlander. "We're looking at things like can they cohort their residents?"

The tests will be free to the facility, staff, and residents.

There's no timetable on when in-person visits will be allowed again, but Friedlander is encouraging families to continue to do those virtual visits with grandma or talk to your mom through a nursing home glass window.

"We know that you miss meeting with your loved ones. That's a very big sacrifice that you've made, But it's an important sacrifice, and as the governor says, you have saved lives," said Dr. Friedlander.

Some words of solace ahead of a mother's day that this year, may be painful for many families.