Nursing homes across the Ozarks concerned about shortage of rapid COVID-19 tests

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 9:23 PM CST
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LOWRY CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Nursing homes across the Ozarks are worried about future COVID-19 outbreaks.

The shortage of rapid test kits is a big factor. The state still has not received a new supply from the manufacturer, Abbott.

Leaders at Truman Lake Manor in Lowry City said rapid tests were one of their major lines of defense, but now the home worries about cases popping up after months without any sick residents.

“I think it’s a matter of time before we will have a COVID positive resident,” said Truman Lake Manor Administrator Tim Corbin. “I think it eventually will happen now.”

There have been a few exposures lately at Truman Lake Manor, but lab test results show nobody living there has COVID yet.

“We’ve already had visitors and people who’ve been in the building, call us back and say, ‘Hey, I just got diagnosed with COVID and I just visited yesterday,’” Corbin said. “Now at this time, we had tested all of our residents. We have no residents at this time that have COVID.”

Corbin said there have not been any COVID positive residents in quite a while, something he is proud of.

“Not a single resident has had COVID in 13 months,” Corbin said.

He said the home faced a much different story in November of 2020. A devastating outbreak hit his facility.

”It has been our one and only outbreak of COVID that impacted the home pretty deeply,” Corbin said. “We had close to 18 deaths.”

Truman Lake Manor immediately added additional strict policies and procedures. The nursing home began testing visitors and staff on a daily basis.

”It was our number one border against the disease,” Corbin said. “It kept it where inside you felt that even though we wear a mask, and we did all this the state and federal guidelines, we felt that everybody here was clean. They had been tested. At least at that moment in time, they were safe to work. Our residents were not getting any undue exposure.”

But this week, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced it had to temporarily pause any re-orders of rapid antigen tests.

“We’ve seen a shortage there in the past few weeks,” DHSS spokesperson Lisa Cox told KY3 earlier in the week. “Really ever since the White House announced that they would be supplying antigen tests on a federal basis sometime in January.”

Demand for tests has also increased as cases have started spiking once again.

”We’re looking at all options,” Cox said. “We’re looking at any any company that has any availability, but it’s really a shortage on the manufacturer side at this point.”

Tim Corbin said he now has to conserve rapid tests only for symptomatic people. He said he worries Truman Lake Manor has lost one of its best lines of defense.

”You’re running into a minefield now blindfolded,” he described. “At least before, we had some level of protection. At the door-by testing, everybody we knew coming in whether or not they were safe or our best guess.”

He still has PCR tests and other nursing homes can order those as well, but results take about 48 hours.

“If you have a positive person, an employee or a visitor, you’ve tested them and you’ve sent the test off,” Corbin described. “But two days later after they’ve been in the building, you find out that they were positive after the fact. It’s kind of shutting the barn door after the fire.”

Right now the state says it is unclear when supplies will return and when ordering can resume.

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