Alabama unable to meet White House deadline for nursing home testing

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A security guard in a mask stands at the entrance to the University of Oklahoma Mobile ER Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Oklahoma City. OU Medicine has prepared mobile emergency rooms, located near the Emergency Room entrance of OU Medical Center, to medically screen urgent and emergent patients for COVID-19.The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Alabama is now one of numerous states that will not meet the White House deadline to test all nursing home residents and staff members by May 25.

According to the Associated Press, at least half of the country will not be able to accomplish the goal, with only a few states saying they have tested every nursing home resident.

Much of the problem is due to a lack of testing capacity. In the AP article, Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said this would have needed Alabama to test 50,000 people two weeks. With the state only being able to test 150,000 in three months, Harris said it was “just not possibe.”

In a written statement to WDHN, Harris explained that the Alabama Department of Public Health supports guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. This includes individual or collective testing after a COVID-19 case is confirmed at a long-term care (LTC) facility.

However, Harris said Alabama’s laboratories simply could not dedicate testing to both long-term care facilities and community testing sites.

“The ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL), with a current capacity of 1,350 SARSCoV 2 tests per day, is unable to provide all testing for LTC while continuing to support community based testing,” he said. “However, ADPH will continue to investigate all cases of COVID-19 in LTC and coordinate testing as part of such investigations.”

Since the pandemic began in Alabama, 871 long-term care employees and 1,367 residents have been affected by COVID-19.

Across the United States, more than 36,000 residents and staff members at long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19. This is more than a third of the United States’ death toll.

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