Vince Mor describes new study to examine nursing home COVID-19 testing strategies

We are excited to announce a new study to test strategies to improve COVID-19 testing and reduce inequities in nursing homes, funded by the National Institutes on Health (NIH) as part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics -Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) initiative. We spoke with Professor Vince Mor about this new work:

Why is this award important?

“Highly-accessible testing will make it possible for nursing homes to become more open to the outside world (during the pandemic).

“This is a study that we just had to do! We were already working with a large nursing home corporation to examine COVID-19 testing. And we were in the process of pulling together a data-sharing cooperative that includes another 11 large nursing home corporations.”

What has your prior research shown?

“We’ve found some very interesting patterns (when  examining testing using data from a large nursing home corporation). Early on, the first cases in a building were residents. Later on, the first cases were staff. It isn’t surprising that later cases were staff. Early in the pandemic, when tests were more scarce & knowledge more limited, people getting tested were symptomatic. Older people are more likely to be symptomatic than younger people. Staff are younger than residents.

“Presumably, staff were vectors early in the pandemic, too, but (there was more) trouble getting tested then. Bigger facilities and facilities in areas with high community prevalence are at the greatest risk for COVID-19: It’s about the staff coming and going every day.”

What is NIH's goal for this funding?

“NIH is examining the testing in vulnerable & underrepresented populations. We’re well-positioned to examine who's tested in nursing homes, & how that varies based on who the person is, where they are, whether the facility has mostly minority or Medicaid patients.”

What will you do during this project?

“Using data from our data-sharing cooperative, we will look at inequities in resident and staff testing. We’ll learn about staff and family attitudes towards testing. And then we’ll conduct a cluster-randomized trial to evaluate a new testing intervention. If our work is successful, we’ll show that a testing regimen can reduce the overall rate of infection in a facility, keep an outbreak from becoming worse, and help nursing homes to become more open to the outside world."

What are your thoughts as you embark on this work?

“We are very grateful that these nursing home corporations think that this is an important enough project and issue to partner with us. Together, we can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of testing regimens and prepare for a vaccine.”

This grant is a supplement to Dr. Mor’s NIA-funded IMPACT Collaboratory, a research incubator to launch efficacious non-drug dementia interventions. Dr. Sarah Berry from Hebrew SeniorLife will direct the work.