President Donald Trump indicated Monday that that he wants every nursing home in America tested for the novel coronavirus, a goal Alabama officials say they cannot currently meet.
Vice President Mike Pence today told the nation’s governors in a conference call Monday that the White House coronavirus task force strongly recommends states provide for this testing at long-term care facilities.
Trump said at his briefing that he would consider mandating it.
“Frankly, some of the governors were very lax with respect to nursing homes,” he said.
Gina Maiola, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s press secretary, expressed support for the idea of testing every nursing home resident. But she added that it would amount to tens of thousands of tests.
“At this point, we do not have enough access to testing, and Governor Ivey is not seeking to issue an unfunded mandate,” she said in a statement. “However, we continue to exhaust all efforts to address and care for our most vulnerable and encourage nursing homes to take extraordinary measures in areas of sanitation and hygiene.”
Trump disagreed, although he did not mention Alabama by name.
“They have the capacity to do it; they should be doing it,” he said.
Adm. Brad Giroir, the assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said at the White House briefing that an $11 billion program to help states expand testing would come with strings that include nursing homes.
“We’re going to be very specific, and they know it. … They have to have plans for their vulnerable communities, including nursing homes, including those who are disabled, including those who are in prisons or who have workings environments that they have more likelihood to spread the virus,” he said.
Nursing homes have been extremely vulnerable given how fragile their residents are. The York Times has estimated that a third of all COVID-19 deaths in America are nursing home workers or residents.
Mobile County Health Department officials have said 15 of the county’s 37 long-term care facilities have cases. And nursing home workers and residents account for 24 percent of people who have tested positive for the virus.
“We know we have a lot of outbreaks going on in congregate settings,” said Rendi Murphree, Mobile County’s top epidemiologist.
At her daily briefing Monday, Murphree said that beyond aggressive testing, nursing homes should tightly control who enters.
“We are strongly recommending all of our long-term care facilities continue to prohibit non-essential visitors and workers in their facilities because of the threat of outbreaks,” she said.