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Mass Testing In Nursing Homes Is A Must At First Sign Of COVID-19, Yale Study Says

Vesna Harni from Pixabay

The Yale School of Public Health recommends testing every nursing home resident at the first sign of a COVID-19 infection. That’s after nearly 3,000 patients died from outbreaks in Connecticut nursing homes.

Connecticut nursing homes reported their first case of Coronavirus in mid-March. Weeks later, the state Department of Public Health asked Yale epidemiologists to help. They identified 33 nursing homes where they could target COVID testing to contain outbreaks and save the most lives.

Dr. Sunil Parikh, an associate professor of epidemiology and of medicine at Yale, said his study took an extraordinary amount of coordination between the state, nursing homes and eight test labs. Dr. Parikh’s findings, produced with the State Department of Public Health, were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) this week.

“We were really struck by the number of undiagnosed cases that were present," Parikh said. "It was nearly 30 percent of residents that were tested in these initial 33 facilities.”

Parikh said none of the nursing home staff were tested, but almost 9 in 10 of residents who tested positive didn’t show symptoms on the day of testing. He said Connecticut’s model for rapid testing might help stem outbreaks in states like Texas and Florida.

“You really need to test everyone in that facility and probably do it repeatedly until you get ahold of the outbreak,” he said.

Parikh said rapid test results will be especially important to contain outbreaks as school resumes. He said testing helps contain outbreaks only if people continue to wear masks and social distance.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.