New order requires broader COVID-19 testing at Washington assisted living facilities

Hannah Tellier
Team Rubicon volunteer, EMT Hannah Tellier, from Boston, holds a COVID-19 test in the emergency room of the Kayenta Health Center on the Navajo reservation in Kayenta, Ariz., on April 23, 2020. The Navajo reservation has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country. Team Rubicon is helping with medical operations as cases of COVID-19 surge. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Health issued a new order on Thursday, requiring broader COVID-19 testing in long term care facilities and nursing homes.

Effective Thursday, all staff and residents at long term care facilities will be tested over the course of two weeks. Governor Jay Inslee says the plan is to have that testing complete by June 12.

Testing will also be required for staff at assisted living facilities with a memory care unit over the course of four weeks, or by June 26.

State Secretary of Health John Wiesman says they’re specifically focusing on memory care units, which have seen a higher rate of infection. That’s partially due to residents’ tendencies to wander in those units, Wiesman said.

Under the order, testing will be required of all staff unless they have a medical justification to not. Testing will also be offered to all consenting residents.

In order to complete this process, the state will send the necessary testing supplies to all facilities, as well as additional PPE.

The state will also pay for all lab costs associated with the additional testing. Officials are still working on figuring out costs, Inslee said.

“We now have the proper testing supplies to carry out this mission,” said Wiesman. ““We’re looking forward to the results and learning just how much asymptomatic results we have in a facility.”