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HHS Providing $5B to Nursing Homes to Tackle Coronavirus Pandemic

NEW YORK – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced late on Wednesday $5 billion in new funding to help Medicare-certified long-term care facilities and nursing homes address needs, including increased SARS-CoV-2 testing, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Department of Health and Human Services is providing the funding as part of the Provider Relief Fund authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. The $5 billion is in addition to $4.9 billion previously announced to offset revenue losses and assist nursing homes that have incurred additional costs resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The new funding is to help such facilities enhance infection control by increasing testing, hiring more staff, implementing infection control "mentorship programs" with experts in certain subject matters, and providing additional services, such as new technologies that allow residents to connect remotely with relatives.

In the area of testing, CMS will begin requiring nursing homes in states with a 5 percent or greater positivity rate for SARS-CoV-2 to test all staff weekly in order to identify asymptomatic carriers who potentially could spread COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The agency said that more than 15,000 testing devices will be deployed during the next few months to support the mandate, including more than 600 devices this week.

Funds from the Provider Relief Fund may also be used for additional testing of visitors, CMS said.

To qualify for the new funding, nursing homes must participate in the Nursing Home COVID-19 Training, a program being rolled out by CMS and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on infection control and best practices. The online, self-paced, on-demand program supplements training already underway to help nursing homes better contain and stop the spread of COVID-19, CMS said, adding the training will be available to all 15,400 nursing homes nationwide.

The new funding follows an announcement last week by HHS that it was purchasing a combined 1.5 million rapid antigen tests and 4,000 testing platforms from BD and Quidel to help nursing homes detect the coronavirus.