The Broad Institute, a research institution in Kendall Square, is conducting COVID-19 surveillance testing of all residents, health care workers, and staff at skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities in Cambridge. The pilot program follows the recent conversion of Broad’s clinical processing lab into a large-scale COVID-19 testing facility.
Students in Grade 7 at at Cambridge Street Upper School (CSUS) are matched every year with mentors who are Broad researchers and other employees. Additional mentors in CSV’s NetPals program who are matched with CSUS students are volunteers from Novartis, IBM, Neon Therapeutics, and Philips Research.
The following Frequently Asked Questions were published by the City of Cambridge Public Health Department, which is collaborating with the Broad on the project.
Why is this program being launched in Cambridge skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities?
The risk associated with COVID-19 to residents in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities is extremely high. While the Cambridge Public Health Department expects that skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities in Cambridge are following Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines (found here) and/or best practices, staff at these facilities are under intense pressure at this time. Rapid testing for all patients/residents, health care workers, and staff will provide timely information about COVID-19 status that skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities are currently unable to obtain due to limited availability of testing. Surveillance testing at this time is critical for the continued control and prevention of COVID-19 at these facilities where many residents are at high risk for serious illness and death from COVID19
What is the benefit of conducting surveillance testing?
Surveillance testing, which is what this pilot project is undertaking, is a different approach from how most COVID-19 testing is currently being conducted in the United States at this time. Under the surveillance approach, everyone in a given population—in this case, those who live and work in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities—is tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms or feel ill. This approach will provide a more accurate picture of the true infection rate in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities at a given point in time. By testing an entire population of facility patients/residents and workers, regardless of symptoms, the Cambridge Public Health Department and state partners can move quickly to isolate residents. The goal of rapid identification of positive cases is to break the chain of transmission in these facilities and ultimately reduce the number of people who become infected.
Who is conducting the tests?
The Broad Institute has procured testing supplies and conducted a brief “train the trainers” program for testing process, packaging/labeling, and delivery procedures for Pro EMS field staff. Each screening day is being conducted by three teams of six field providers plus a team leader all in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by Pro EMS. Samples are being transported to the Broad Institute for testing in their laboratory.
How long will the pilot last?
The pilot was launched on Thursday, April 9, with an initial group getting their first tests completed that day. Residents, staff, and health care workers at each of the seven facilities will be tested twice, with the initial and final tests being conducted three days apart. The pilot is currently slated to run for one week, April 9–15. Each screening day will be conducted by three teams of six (6) field providers plus a team leader all in appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by Pro EMS. Pro EMS will schedule a team to be onsite in each facility at a specific period during a day shift and will return for a scheduled time during the evening to cover missed staff and add flexibility to the scheduling process for each facility.