Testing at Nursing Homes Now Critical

Elderly people with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of dying from COVID-19. They also are the men and women most likely to be residents of nursing homes.

Experience during the past couple of weeks has demonstrated that outbreaks in nursing homes can serve as beach heads for the coronavirus to spread throughout communities. In King County, Washington, the COVID-19 death toll stood at 136 as of Sunday.

King County became a bullseye for COVID-19 after an outbreak at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland. At last report, 35 residents and staff members there had succumbed to the virus.

Similar nursing home outbreaks have occurred in other states, including West Virginia. Here, at least 21 of the 30 cases in Monongalia County are at a nursing home.

Availability of testing kits to determine whether people have contracted COVID-19 remains a concern. There simply are not enough to serve basic public health needs.

The more we learn, however, the more apparent it becomes that nursing homes need to be given priority for testing — even if no COVID-19 cases have been reported there.

Lives were lost at the Washington nursing home because steps to battle the virus were not taken soon enough. Treating every elder-care facility as a COVID-19 hot zone could save lives.


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