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Three Months Into the Pandemic, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Releases Plan to Test Staff at All Nursing Homes and Other Facilities

Brown has been pushed for months to back a plan for testing all nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Nearly three months to the day after Oregon's first COVID-19 case, and more than three months after a Seattle nursing home became the first epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a plan for regularly testing all staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

"I have directed the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services to implement a plan to test all residents and staff of long-term care facilities, starting with the facilities at highest risk," Brown said in a statement. "Expanding testing is an essential first step that will allow us to examine how visitation policies can be safely and incrementally eased."

Roughly half the state's deaths due to COVID-19 have been associated with long-term care facilities.

Under the approach outlined by the governor in an evening press release, all staff will be tested each month; all residents will be tested if any facility has a confirmed or suspected case among residents or a confirmed case among staff; and all residents will be tested before admission or readmission (followed by quarantine, even in the case of negative tests).

The best practices the governor's press release highlights run counter to what OHA officials previously told WW was necessary or advisable.

"Once an outbreak has been established, OHA does not generally recommend testing everyone, as the results would not usually change infection control efforts," agency spokesman Philip Schmidt told WW in late April.

The governor's policy comes after significant pressure.

Both the Oregon chapter of the AARP and Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran have been among the loudest voices pressing the state to test all people living or working in long-term care facilities. Meieran has been publicly calling for mandated testing of all nursing home staff and residents for months.

The nursing homes trade group, the Oregon Health Care Association, has supported testing all staff.

The governor's press release said the plan for testing all facilities partly depends on getting more testing supplies from the federal government.