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Trump administration recommends large-scale testing of nursing home residents and staff

Coronavirus cases in the White House
Coronavirus cases in the White House 10:12

The Trump administration is recommending that more than 1 million nursing home residents and staff be tested in the coming weeks, part of a push to increase testing for COVID-19 across the country. The recommendation was announced on a call late Monday morning with state governors led by Vice President Pence and other administration officials working on the response to the pandemic, according to two people familiar with the call.

The call included obvious signs of social distancing now underway at the White House, just a few days after a military valet to President Trump and Vice President Pence's press secretary both tested positive for COVID-19.

Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx appeared during the teleconference on a split screen in separate rooms within the White House complex while other administration officials joined by telephone, according to one participant on the call.

"They are really social distancing today — most of them on a phone — Birx and Pence alone in different rooms," said the person familiar, granted anonymity to speak frankly about the call.

"When they were setting up prior to the start they were wearing masks," the person added. Once the call began, they took the masks off. 

The administration's increased focus on residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities was welcome news to some state officials.

"They are finally realizing the need for a focus on long-term care facilities and nursing homes," said one state official familiar with Monday's call. "We saw early on what happened in Washington state at nursing homes but now the feds are finally focusing on getting supplies and support to these facilities."

The first major outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States began at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, in February.

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