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West Virginia Aims To Test All Nursing Home Residents, Workers For COVID-19

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (pictured in January) has said he wants all nursing home residents and staff for coronavirus.
Chris Jackson
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (pictured in January) has said he wants all nursing home residents and staff for coronavirus.

Updated at 6:44 p.m. ET

Amid growing concern about the well-being of residents of elder care facilities, West Virginia officials are preparing to test every nursing home resident and worker in the state for the new coronavirus.

Gov. Jim Justice has issued an executive order directing state health officials and the National Guard and to conduct the tests, including retesting those who've previously been checked for the virus.

"Our nursing homes, we all know, are the most vulnerable of all of our people," Justice said during a briefing on Friday. "This disease has a way of attacking the elderly."

The decision follows outbreaks at care centers nationwide, including multiple positive tests at a facility in Jackson County, W.Va., this week.

Justice expressed frustration at incomplete testing and inconsistent information he said was coming from nursing homes where outbreaks of the virus have occurred.

"I'm sick and tired of listening to the discrepancies," he said. "We've gotta go back and redo everybody."

A spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from NPR for data on the number of tests that will be administered in West Virginia, and information about the state's testing capacity.

No other state has required tests "on the scale of West Virginia as far as we are aware," said James Nash, a spokesman for the National Governors Association.

Elder care centers have been a major focus of concern as numerous outbreaks and deaths have occurred at such facilities. In Florida, the National Guard also has been brought in to help ramp up testing at nursing homes and assisted living centers. In Virginia, where more than half of reported outbreaks have been at long-term care centers, Gov. Ralph Northam recently set up a nursing home task force designed to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.