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Shortage of COVID-19 testing supplies and lagging results threaten nursing homes

Outbreaks in states like Florida and Georgia are impacting supply in Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials are reporting another outbreak of COVID-19 at an Indiana nursing home, but didn't elaborate on the details.

It's no surprise to long-term care experts. A national industry group has sent urgent warnings to the nation's governors about lagging test results for nursing homes. 

13 Investigates looks into the "back-up" in Indiana and what's being done about it.

Tests in. Results out. That's how it's supposed to work. 

But Indiana's COVID-19 testing flow is in "back-up" mode once again. 

"These are external factors that are beyond our control," explained Dr. Kris Box, Indiana's state health commissioner. 

Box is reporting a shortage of testing supplies and said outbreaks in states like Florida and Georgia are impacting supply and demand in Indiana.

"(It) has impacted our ability to get supplies. It has also increased the wait times for our lab results in many cases," added the commissioner.

The slow down comes at a critical time.

Dr. Box revealed Indiana is seeing a troubling upturn in positive cases and grappling with an outbreak at an unnamed nursing facility. In addition, the state is trying to get 57,000 nursing home employees base line testing for COVID-19. 45,000 staff have been tested so far.

WATCH LIVE: State leaders are updating the COVID-19 response as Indiana sees 700 positive cases in one day.

Posted by WTHR-TV on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Testing turnaround times aren't unique to Indiana.

The American Health Care Association that represents more than 14,000 nursing and assisted living facilities across the country, sent an urgent letter to the nation's governors warning of imminent outbreaks.

According to the letter from Mark Parkinson, the group's president and CEO, "The amount of time it is taking to receive testing results is hurting the ability of long-term facilities to fight the virus."

Parkinson went on to write, "We need on-site testing with reliable and rapid results."

The administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services responded by shipping out 2,000 rapid results testing machines to facilities across the country.

But 13 Investigates has learned Indiana will not receive any of those additional testing machines.

Instead Dr. Box says Indiana will turn to it's own, newly devised network for help.

The Indiana Lab Testing Network will use labs across the state to process COVID-19 tests in hopes of speeding up lagging results.

"We anticipate a 3 to 5 day turnaround for those results. Our strike teams are typically able to get results within 48 hours meaning a quick response in our most critical areas where we need to avoid outbreaks, such as in nursing homes or industrial facilities that are seeing high numbers of cases," Dr. Box said.

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