The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a large-scale buy of diagnostic instruments and COVID-19 tests that it will distribute to the nation's 15,400 nursing homes in coming months. The agency will begin to distribute the equipment and tests next week to 2,000 nursing homes ranked by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for being at highest risk for community spread of COVID-19.

The test instruments that HHS is distributing are the Sofia 2 from Quidel (NASDAQ:QDEL) and BD Veritor Plus from Becton, Dickinson (NYSE:BDX). The instruments use immunoassay tests that detect SARS-CoV-2 antigens in samples from nasal swabs in 15 minutes. Both systems have been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Coronaviruses imposed over a pair of elderly hands.

Image source: Getty Images.

HHS plans to ship the units and about 400 tests to every nursing home in the country. After that, facilities can order additional tests for under $25 each. The government says that each nursing home needs the capability to screen residents and to test staff at least weekly. By September, HHS hopes to have 15 million to 20 million tests available each month, but the companies will likely not have the production capacity to meet the full demand for the tests and supplies until October.