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IDPH, State Hygienic Lab can’t meet federal COVID-19 testing requirements for long-term care facilities

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(KWWL) -- The Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Hygienic Lab have warned long-term care facilities that they won't be able to help meet newly revised federal COVID-19 testing requirements.

The new rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services directs long-term care facilities to test staff and residents with symptoms of COVID-19, test staff and residents in response to an outbreak, and conduct routine testing of staff, including consultants, contractors, volunteers, and others. Right now, the IDPH and SHL only conduct testing in facilities when staff or residents become symptomatic or when cases are identified.

In a letter, The IDPH and SHL say the increased volume and frequency that will be generated by the requirement to conduct routine testing, plus the testing already occurring across the state, will exceed the current capacity of the State Hygienic Lab. The two agencies say they will not be able to provide or process routine tests in order to comply with the new rule.

The State Hygienic Lab currently has the ability to process around 5,000 tests per day. The IDPH and SHL say they will continue to conduct testing in facilities where staff or residents become symptomatic or cases are identified. The IDPH says HHS plans to supply rapid point-of-care testing supplies and equipment to long-term care facilities, which should allow facilities to meet the new testing requirements.

As of Friday, more than half of the state's COVID-19-related deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities and at least 39 outbreaks are being reported. The state defines an outbreak as 3 or more residents inside a facility testing positive.

If facilities are unable to meet the testing requirements due to supply shortages, lab availability or other reasons, they have been instructed to document their attempts to perform and/or obtain testing in accordance with the guidelines.

The full letter from the Iowa Department of Public Health and State Hygienic Lab can be found here:

Trevor Oates

Executive Producer

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