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Michigan Mandates Virus Testing for Nursing Home Residents, Staff

Under an emergency order from the state Department of Health and Human Services, nursing homes and long-term care facilities must test all residents and staff weekly until a facility goes 14 days without a positive test.

by Arpan Lobo, Holland Sentinel, Mich. / June 17, 2020
Ann Arbor residents dine along Main Street in Ann Arbor on Friday, June 12, 2020. Select streets downtown will be closed down Friday through Sunday for the remainder of the summer. TNS

(TNS) — On Monday, Michigan health officials announced a new order that directs nursing homes and long term facilities across the state to ramp up their COVID-19 testing procedures.

Under an emergency order made by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon on June 15, nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be required to perform weekly tests of all residents and staff until a facility goes 14 days without a positive test.

The order also directs initial testing for residents and staff, testing of residents upon intake (unless they've already been tested in the previous 72 hours), testing of any resident or staff member with symptoms of suspected exposure, testing of the state's regions except northern regions 6 and 8 and weekly testing for regions in the medium and high risk categories of the MI Safe Start program.

According to the order, the state will assist facilities with testing capacity.

While many nursing homes have been testing residents and staff to adhere to clear federal guidance, Gordon said, the state held off on requiring it because "we wanted to wait until we had adequate supply and adequate ability to ensure access to that."

As of Sunday, June 14, there have been 1,947 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 among long-term care facility residents in Michigan, with another 20 confirmed deaths among staff, according to state health data.

That is over one-third of the state's total confirmed COVID-19 deaths. There have been 7,163 confirmed cases among long-term care facility residents and 3,133 among staff.

Under the state's MI Safe Start plan, Ottawa County is located in the Grand Rapids region, region 2, which is currently at medium risk.

Allegan County is in the Kalamazoo region, region 3, which is also at medium risk.

For local facilities, a set of clear guidelines from the state add on to what many were already doing.

"We're doing whatever is necessary to protect the health of our residents," said Stephanie Miller, director of business at Hallmark Living in Holland. "The actual weekly testing hasn't started yet, but I bet that will happen soon."

Under the order, facilities have to have a testing plan in place by June 22.

Deedre Vriesman, CEO of Resthaven Care Facility in Allegan County, said while procedures are in place to isolate and treat residents who test positive at the facility, there are concerns over the response time of the tests.

"Our biggest concern is, we feel confident that we can get the testing done, but we're concerned about the time it takes to get the results back," she said. "If we're going to do it weekly and we don't have it in a week, it's difficult."

Vriesman said no residents or staff tested positive during a National Guard testing event last weekend. Between Resthaven's facilities, she said there's close to 400 staff and 350 residents that would need to be tested weekly.

"We've been really lucky, we haven't had any of residents test positive, but we are following testing guidelines," she said.

— Contact reporter Arpan Lobo at alobo@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @arpanlobo. David Eggert of The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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