A recent surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and staff at long-term care facilities has prompted the North Dakota Department of Health to adjust its coronavirus testing strategies and address some of the staffing issues at the facilities.
Among the changes:
- Testing of long-term care residents and staff has been prioritized over all other testing, and every effort will be made to return results from long-term care tests within 24 hours of testing. Tests normally come back within 48 hours. The accelerated testing will allow for immediate isolation and cohorting, or grouping together, of positive residents and staff and the quarantine of close contacts.
- Contact tracing and follow-up with long-term care residents and health care workers also has been prioritized.
- The state health department will implement a plan to use emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and others to conduct test swabbing. This will allow the department to free up nearly 200 nurses to provide staff coverage as needed in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings.
- The federal government is providing North Dakota with Abbott BinaxNOW point-of-care testing kits that can be used at long-term care facilities. The kits can return COVID-19 test results in 15 minutes “with a high degree of accuracy,” according to Governor Burgum, speaking at a media briefing Wednesday morning.
The state is also looking at other ways to improve screening, testing, disinfection and telehealth options for residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
The goal, according to the state health department, is to balance protecting residents and staff while still allowing for safe visitation to residents, and reduce the number of COVID-19 positives in the long-term care facilities.
“The recent increase in cases in these facilities is a reflection of the increased spread of coronavirus in our communities at large, which makes it even more important for North Dakotans to practice good COVID-19 etiquette: social distance, wear a mask, wash hands frequently and avoid large gatherings,” said State Health Officer Paul Marian.