July 22 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday announced new measures to protect seniors in nursing homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Sevices released a four-part plan including $5 billion in funding for nursing facilities, increased testing requirements, additional technical assistance and support and weekly data reporting to states.
"I want to send a message of support and hope to every senior citizen who has been dealing with the struggle of isolation in what should be the golden years of your life," Trump said during a daily press briefing. "We will get to the other end of that tunnel very quickly, we hope. The light is starting to shine."
Under the plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allocate $5 billion worth of funds authorized in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to increase training and preparation for responding to and controlling COVID-19 infections.
The administration will also require all nursing homes in states with a positivity rate of 5% or greater to test all nursing staff each week in addition to providing more than 15,000 rapid point-of-care diagnostic testing devices to nursing homes over a period of months, beginning with more than 600 being shipped this week.
CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plan to implement online Nursing Home COVID-19 training that will be available to all 15,400 nursing homes nationwide along with specialized technical assistance to nursing homes exhibiting deficiencies in their response.
Lastly, the administration will distribute weekly data collected on nursing homes, including a list of nursing homes with an increase in cases, to states.
"As caseloads continue to increase in areas around the country, it has never been more important that nursing homes have what they need to maintain a sturdy defense against the virus," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.