A care home provider says his "fearless" staff urgently need to be tested for coronavirus after two residents died from the disease.
Rahul Jagota, of Care Fulfilment, which runs three homes in Essex, said there was a shortage of protective equipment.
He said the government must do "whatever it takes" to bring care homes in line with protection for NHS staff.
The Department of Health and Social Care it was spending £2.9bn to support local authorities and the care sector.
As testing capacity increases, social care and other key workers are expected to be included in the programme.
Two Care Fulfilment residents have so far died with the virus - one from Millard House in Bocking, near Braintree, and another from The Corner House in Clacton-on-Sea.
"People we want to look after will not be looked after in the manner they should be," said Mr Jagota.
He said that care homes were being seen as "secondary" to the NHS and hospitals in terms of testing for coronavirus, despite it being known that the "discriminatory" disease was leaving elderly people in homes vulnerable.
"Our staff have never been so stressed," he said. "We have to do whatever it takes to keep our residents and staff safe."
Essex County Council has set up a hub to coordinate donations and distribute supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes.
Despite deliveries of goggles and gloves, it has not yet received masks from government, meaning that care homes - including Care Fulfilment - have had to buy them privately.
Conservative councillor John Spence, of Essex County Council, said the sheer number of vulnerable people being cared for in its adult social care sector dwarfed that of the NHS.
"There are 2,500 people in the acute hospitals of Essex," he said. "We are looking after something in the region of 17,000.
"Just imagine the amount of equipment that requires, with staff going between homes."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said it had published guidance for local authorities on how to prioritise staff, and was reinstating 8,000 former social workers "to fill vital roles in the community".