A woman walks up to closed doors at the Josephine Caring Community on March 11 in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

A woman walks up to closed doors at the Josephine Caring Community on March 11 in Stanwood. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Purchase Photo

Inslee wants nursing home residents, staff tested by June 12

Governor says state will pay for test kits and personal protective equipment.

OLYMPIA — Nursing homes and many assisted living facilities across the state will finally get blanket testing for the new coronavirus under an order that Gov. Jay Inslee issued Thursday.

Per the order, tests must be offered to everyone living in a nursing home by June 12 and all residents of certain assisted living facilities by June 26.

Inslee is also requiring that all staff members in those facilities be tested unless an employee gives medical justification from a health care provider declining a test.

The state will provide free test kits and personal protective equipment for administering the tests to every facility. The massive effort is expected to cost $1.5 million for nursing homes alone.

“This is going to protect some of our most vulnerable residents,” Inslee said during a news conference.

The announcement is a victory for the state’s long-term care facilities, many of which have been especially hard-hit by the virus because of residents’ advanced age and underlying health conditions.

If a facility does not receive enough test kits or protective gear, it must use every test it can safely administer and notify the state Department of Health. Otherwise, it will be considered in violation of the order.

Facilities aren’t obligated to pay laboratories for the tests. Instead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Washington’s Health Care Authority will pay for tests performed on all residents and staff who are covered by Medicare or Medicaid, and the state will pay for the rest, the order says.

Assisted living facilities that don’t have a memory care unit are not covered under the order. State officials chose to focus testing efforts on facilities with those units because residents there tend to wander and move around more on a daily basis, which increases the risk of infection, said Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

State officials are developing plans for widespread testing at assisted living facilities without memory care units and adult family homes, Wiesman said. They’re also considering options for interval testing at long-term care facilities to track new infections over time.

Nursing home industry advocates have for weeks pushed for broad testing at long-term care facilities, saying it’s the only way to truly understand how widely the virus is spreading.

A lack of testing supplies limited the state’s ability to do so, Inslee said. Meanwhile, research has illustrated how people who are infected often spread COVID-19 without showing symptoms, he added.

“Had we had additional testing capacity, I think we could have done these things earlier, but that’s been a great limitation,” Inslee said. “Both the science has improved, and the testing supplies have improved.”

Facilities that have completed a COVID-19 point prevalence survey of residents and staff since the beginning of April are not subject to the order, Inslee said, because they’ve already done widespread testing.

The Snohomish Health District has partnered with more than a dozen facilities to conduct broad testing. Other sites may have completed such testing independent of the district.

The county is home to more than 600 long-term care facilities. Most of them are adult family homes, 19 are nursing homes and 45 are assisted living facilities, according to the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.

As of Thursday, 74 people connected to long-term care facilities in Snohomish County had died of the illness, accounting for half of the county’s death toll, according to the local health district.

Statewide, there were 3,728 COVID-19 cases and 667 deaths linked to long-term care facilities as of Tuesday.

But “thankfully,” the state has seen a decrease in outbreaks at such facilities in the past month to six weeks, said Wiesman.

“We are looking forward to these results and learning just how much asymptomatic infection we might have in a facility,” he said.

Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Vehicles start to back ups at I-5's exit 192 as rush hour begins. (Lizz Giordano / The Herald)
Survey: Snohomish is state’s sixth-healthiest county

While the county has low birth rates among teens, drivers here have some of the longest commute times.

Everett's Christopher Sembroski during centrifuge training at the NASTAR Center in Pennsylvania. (John Kraus/Inspiration4 photo)
Everett’s own spaceman thrilled to join all-civilian mission

Christopher Sembroski is in training to be part of a three-day SpaceX Dragon flight funded by a billionaire.

Police seek suspect in Mountlake Terrace shooting

Two men who were shot were in critical condition and transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Snohomish County kicks off new rental assistance program

It starts with nearly $25 million from the U.S. Treasury Department. More funding is expected soon.

A dog died and several people were displaced in a fire at an apartment complex in Mukilteo on Monday. (Mukilteo Fire Department)
Dog dies in Mukilteo apartment fire early Monday

Several people were displaced, and the damage was estimated at $850,000.

Firefighters kept a wildfire in the Grandview area northeast of Arlington from growing beyond the 1.5 acres it torched Sunday afternoon. (North County Fire/EMS)
Brush fire near Arlington scorches grass and shrubs

The fire reached about 1.5 acres Sunday afternoon.

Kelsey Dunlap and Brian Matson. (Contributed photos)
2 Edmonds College students make state all-academic team

Edmonds College students make state all-academic team Edmonds College students Kelsey Dunlap… Continue reading

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Club president Zachary Nelson explains to a pair of students how the currency works while handing out free cryptocurrency at the University of Washington Bothell on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Crypto’s wild ride: It’s winning fans from here to Wall Street

Digital currency is worth trillions to traders betting on Dogecoin, Bitcoin and other blockchains.

With desks stacked away to provide social distance spacing, tenth grader Zendon Bugge attends a World History class during the first day of school for Everett High students on Monday, April 19, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Students statewide returned to school buildings on Monday

Districts are now required to provide in-person class two days a week for kids through grade 12.

Most Read