Nursing homes must now test residents and staff for coronavirus or face fines under new measures announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Tuesday as part of a "dramatic ramp-up in our efforts" to address the virus' toll among vulnerable Americans.
The agency has recommended widespread testing in facilities for months, but now, nursing homes can face consequences if they do not test residents and staff if symptoms of COVID-19 start showing, and director Seema Verma told ABC News the "testing requirement is very critical" and part of an overall strategy to fight the disease.
Some nursing homes have said the cost of widespread testing is expensive and federal agencies are providing point-of-care testing kits to 15,000 facilities nationwide and more than $5 billion in broad financial support through congressional rescue packages. However, as of two weeks ago, tests had gone to only 1,500 locations.
In locations where coronavirus cases are rising, nursing home staff are expected to be tested more frequently. The rule also requires nursing homes in states with a 5% positivity rate or higher to conduct tests once a week, and in places where the rate is 10% or higher, the tests must be done twice a week.
Verma said the agency will send inspectors to nursing homes to ensure compliance, and in places that do not apply, enforcement sanctions, including fines of $400 a day will be charged or penalties of over $8,000 for every instance were the homes do not comply.
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