Opportunity to Test Nursing Home Residents and Staff

DHS Logo Original 07/11/2018

Division of Quality Assurance: Notifications & Updates

Attn: All Wisconsin Nursing Homes

Opportunity to Test Nursing Home Residents and Staff

In appreciation and support of the challenging work you do every day to protect some of our most vulnerable individuals, Wisconsin is moving forward with a plan to test every nursing home resident and staff member in the state for COVID-19 by the end of May.

This testing is necessary because growing evidence suggests that persons with COVID-19 become infectious days prior to developing symptoms, and many develop only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. This means that in congregate living settings like nursing homes where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, moving beyond only symptom-based screening is unlikely to detect all cases. To date, 40% of the individuals in Wisconsin who lost their lives due to COVID-19 lived in a nursing home.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is calling local public health and every nursing home this week to work with you to make a plan for testing, reducing COVID-19 transmissions among residents and staff, managing COVID-19 infections, and identifying facilities that need special support. The goal is to provide support to maintain staffing levels, receive needed supplies, provide training, and maintain a safe living and work environment.

Free COVID-19 tests are available for all residents and staff in Wisconsin’s nursing homes. Testing will occur by May 31. DHS will prioritize more urgent testing in facilities that have expressed readiness or have higher infection rates in their communities.

You can prepare to make the most of these phone calls by identifying your facility’s strategies and needs before the call:

  • How many testing collection supplies do you need to test the individuals who live and work in your facility?
    Submit your order for free testing collection supplies here: https://covid19supplies.wi.gov/Testing. Allow 2-3 days for delivery.
  • When will you test your residents and staff?
  • Do you need help?

           o   Do you have an ordering provider, i.e., Medical Director, attending physician, etc.?
           o   Do you have staff to collect the specimens for the test?
           o   Do you have staff to provide test results, education, and case management to
                residents and staff?
           o   Do you have staff to conduct contact tracing?
           o   Do you need help from local public health and/or the National Guard?

  • Do you have an emergency management plan for isolating residents and for staffing?

COVID-19 testing is strongly recommended for all residents. People can have COVID-19 without any symptoms, so residents and staff should get tested even if they feel well. Every individual will receive information about COVID-19 and the test. However, testing is not mandatory.

Nursing Home providers and stakeholders are invited to attend this week’s webinar, hosted by the Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) and DHS, on Thursday, May 14 at 11am-12pm. During this time DHS will provide updates and answer questions related to COVID-19 and long-term care facilities.

Please do not reply directly to this email message. Submit any questions you would like addressed on the webinar to DHSDQACOVID19@dhs.wisconsin.gov by 12 p.m. on the Wednesday before the webinar. Thank you again for the work you do.