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Update on Abbott BinaxNOW Test Distribution

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided updated information concerning distribution of the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 rapid point-of-care tests

HHS will distribute a total of 150 million of these tests through December 2020. 50 million are earmarked for the “most vulnerable communities” including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health and hospice agencies, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the Indian Health Service, and states recovering from natural disasters. Another 100 million will be provided to the nation’s Governors, and states will be responsible for distributing and administering them.

Assisted Living:

All assisted living communities with a CLIA certificate of waiver will receive the rapid point-of-care tests. As far as prioritization, HHS shared with Argentum this week that the first distributions will go to all CLIA-certified assisted living communities whether or not they are in a COVID-19 hotspot (as determined by CDC epidemiological data). Currently, there are approximately 5,000 assisted living communities with such a waiver.

If you do not have a CLIA certificate of waiver, you may still apply in order to participate in this distribution of tests. For more information you may consult this MDH webpage, this CMS quickstart guide, and this more detailed background document from CMS.

Distribution is based on the degree of positivity within counties: assisted living in areas with greater than 10% positivity (red counties) and those in areas with 5-10% positivity (yellow counties) will be prioritized. The test allocation for red counties is for testing of all staff 2x/week while the allocation for yellow counties is for testing 50% of staff 1x/week. Once the initial round of rapid point-of-care tests has been delivered, HHS’s goal is to send tests to red and yellow COVID-19 hotspot counties only on a weekly basis. However, they indicated they may revisit this issue from time to time and send more tests to facilities in green counties (less than 5% positivity) through December.

Nursing Homes:

Tests for nursing homes are distributed based on the degree of community spread within the county where the facility is located and are intended to support screening of nursing home staff to meet CMS requirements. Current distribution is based on the degree of positivity within counties:  Nursing homes in areas with greater than 10% positivity (red counties) and those in areas with 5-10% positivity (yellow counties) will be prioritized.

  • Red counties: test allocation for testing of all staff 2x/week. 
  • Yellow counties: test allocation for testing 50% of staff 1x/week.

The distribution of BinaxNOW tests will be in addition to the capabilities already provided to these facilities through the distribution of BD or Quidel point of care instruments and tests.

Advocacy Continues

When tests run out, HHS encourages assisted living providers to purchase additional tests on their own. As such, LeadingAge and our national partner Argentum will continue efforts to request additional funding support for the administration of tests. Yesterday, Argentum sent a letter, co-signed by NCAL, to HHS Secretary Azar, reaffirming the need for added financial support for procuring tests, acquiring requisite PPE, and effectively implementing and administering widescale testing across senior living communities. The letter supports the methodology of providing a stipend, offering communities the appropriate reimbursement of the costs for administering tests. It also reinforces that the senior living sector is suffering our most significant losses now, and that we will continue to feel the pinch into the future largely due to a sharp decline in occupancy rates as a result of COVID-19.

When and if you receive these Abbott BinaxNOW tests, we ask you to share with us where you have been able to successfully utilize these tests and the benefits of having them, as well as any challenges you may have had.

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