The Rhode Island Healthcare Association, which represents and lobbies for more than 60 nursing homes in the state, is again pushing Governor Gina Raimondo to require hospitals to administer two COVID-19 tests before transferring patients to nursing facilities. 

The state health department adopted this policy early in the pandemic, but changed its guidance in August. Now, as COVID-19 cases surge in the state, the group is seeking a return to the two test policy. 

RICHA asked the state to reinstate the policy in September, without success.

“It gives [nursing homes] another layer of defense,” said Scott Fraser, head of RICHA. Already, newly admitted residents are required to quarantine for 14-days after arriving from a hospital, but Fraser contends that is not enough.

According to a statement released earlier this week  by RICHA, hospital patients may receive a test during their hospital stay, “but not upon discharge, leaving nursing home residents vulnerable to spread.”

“We were using a test-based approach, then moved to a symptom-based approach,” said department of health spokesman Joseph Wendelken of the DOH change, in an email. 

For patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, the state recommends at least ten days elapse without symptoms or fever before transferring to a nursing home or other congregate care facility. 

“The reason for the change was that COVID-19 positive people can persistently test positive for months, which is due to shedding of dead virus,” said Wendelken.

For patients who have not tested positive for the virus, the state recommends only symptom monitoring and quarantining after entering a long-term care facility from a hospital. 

The increasing number of COVID-19 cases is straining emergency rooms, in part, according to the physician-in-chief of emergency medicine for local hospital system Lifespan, because of delays in transferring patients from hospitals to nursing homes.