Avera Medical Minute: COVID-19 testing in long term care facilities

Erik: Dr. Joseph Rees, a geriatrician at Avera joins us. Doctor what does the testing mean for long term care facilities for residents and staff? Is it mandatory for all of them?

Dr. Rees: "It is not mandatory for all of the residents and the staff. Right now we are offering it as a way to kind of determine if there are any asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 both for the staff and for residents at nursing homes."

Erik: What is the process for the state and Avera?

Dr. Rees: "We are using an outside laboratory right now to get those tests. So currently what happens is the facility is recommended to be on the statewide testing, at which point then we go in and we ask either the patient or the family member to see if they want the testing to be done. We do the same thing with the staff, and then we have a testing day or two that we typically go in and test everyone at the buildings."

Erik: If a resident or staff member tests positive, how will it be handled?

Dr. Rees: "So they're handled differently. If a staff member tests positive, then they'll be asked to be off from work for ten days from the test coming back positive. If they do develop symptoms during those ten days, then they would have to have their symptoms resolved before they could come back to work. From a nursing home residents standpoint, the nursing home resident would be asked to potentially move to another area of the nursing home where they would isolated and kept with other residents who are also COVID-19 positive. Or they may be asked to stay in their own room potentially if they have a roommate who is negative. One of them may leave that room for a short period of time again they would be isolated for a total of ten days assuming they did not have any symptoms. If symptoms develop, then it would be until the symptoms resolve."

Erik: How has Avera kept family members informed about their loved ones?

Dr. Rees: "So currently most of the information has been through our usual channels. At Prince of Peace here in Sioux Falls we've actually opened up a weekly town meeting that we get on to and have family members ask questions, and those questions are answered via a video format on a day of the week. We're also doing Facebook, emails, depending on the type of situation and the needs."