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Can I visit a loved one living in a nursing home or long-term care facility? What is the State doing to protect residents and staff at nursing homes or long-term care facilities?
Visitor Policies at Long-Term Care Facilities
Beginning June 21, Father's Day, New Jersey's nursing homes, Assisted Living residences, dementia care homes, pediatric transitional care homes, and comprehensive personal care homes, can welcome reunions with loved ones in a designated outdoor space.
Individuals should check with long-term care facilities for specific visitor policies. The Department of Health has issued a Directive with measures that must be in place to reduce risks, including:
- A resident who is suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 or quarantined for a COVID-19 exposure cannot have visitors. A resident who has tested positive is allowed visitation after they have met the criteria for discontinuation of isolation.
- There will only be two visitors permitted at a time and the visitors must remain at least 6 feet away from the resident. Both visitors and residents must wear face coverings.
- A staff member, wearing a surgical mask, must remain with the resident during the visit.
- A designated area should be established for visitors to be screened that maintains social distancing and infection control standards. If the individual has any COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be permitted to visit with a resident.
- Visitors are not allowed beyond the reception area of the facilities and restrooms will not be available to them.
- When staff are transporting the resident outdoors, they cannot be moved through any space where either positive or suspected COVID patients are cohorted. A safe distance of 6 feet distance must be maintained between other residents and staff.
- Long-term care facilities should communicate the visitor policy to residents, families, staff and others. They should receive informed consent from the resident and the visitor in writing that they are aware of the possible dangers of COVID-19 exposure and that they will comply with the facility's policies during the visit. As part of the consent form, the visitor must agree to notify the facility if they test positive for the virus or have symptoms within 14 days of visiting.
For a full list of safety requirements, refer to the Department of Health Executive Directive 20-017.
At least 48 hours before they begin outdoor visitation, facilities must submit an attestation that they have implemented the requirements of the Department of Health's directive and that the facility has a location designated for outdoor visitation, sufficient staff and person protective equipment and a method to schedule appointments.
If residents or their families need emotional support as a result of difficulties related to the pandemic—such as an extended absence from each other—there are resources available to help.
You can call New Jersey's toll-free hotline and speak with counselors 7 days a week at 1-866-202-HELP (4357).
New Jersey's Measures to Protect Long-Term Care Facilities
COVID-19 has devastated long-term care facilities and nursing homes in New Jersey and across the nation. In an effort to protect the lives of residents and staff at these facilities, the State has taken a number aggressive measures including:
- Curtailing visitation on March 14, and requiring screening for symptoms and temperature checks of all individuals who enter the facilities.
- Developing an expanded universal testing strategy where all residents/patients and staff at long-term care facilities must be tested by May 26, with retesting of individuals who test negative within 3-7 days after baseline testing, and further retesting in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidance. As of June 5, over 90% of facilities have reported their testing data.
- In partnership with the VA, universal baseline testing of all residents and staff has been completed at all three veterans memorial homes – Paramus, Menlo Park, and Vineland
- Increasing the personal protective equipment (PPE) available to these facilities. As of May 5, the State has shipped nearly 11 million pieces of PPE to long-term care facilities.
- Allowing facilities to hire out-of-state, certified nurse aides to support staffing vacancies
- Enforcing mandatory notification of residents, families and staff of an outbreak in their facilities, and requiring universal masking
- Prohibiting admissions to facilities that could not cohort patients and staff
- Deploying over 300 New Jersey National Guard members to long-term care facilities to provide additional staffing and support
- Deploying an additional 40 VA clinical staff to New Jersey as part of strike force teams to help at our long-term care centers
- Using the Department of Human Services' Medicaid transportation provider to assist in getting COVID-positive residents at long-term care facilities to and from the hospital
- Requiring facilities to confirm mandated updates to their outbreak prevention plans
Governor Murphy has announced a series of recommendations and actions from Manatt Health's review of New Jersey's long-term centers. Manatt Health provided several recommendations to improve quality, safety, and resilience within New Jersey's long-term care system. New Jersey has begun work to implement key recommendations, including setting up a central Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center and accessing at least $10 million of Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) funds to improve inspection, oversight and protections at long-term care facilities.
In addition, the State is working to support facilities during this health crisis. In April, State surveyors inspected 60 facilities to examine infection control procedures, staffing levels, the availability of PPE, and outbreak response plans -- which includes family notification.
In several instances, surveys resulted in the issuance of directed plans of correction and some facilities were directed to bring on consultants in nursing and infection control.
Meanwhile, in response to the significant number of deaths and disturbing complaints about these facilities, on April 16, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into the state's long-term care facilities.
If you have first-hand knowledge of illegal activity or other misconduct at a nursing home or a long-term care facility during the COVID-19 outbreak, please fill out this online reporting form (covid19.nj.gov/ltc) from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.
Source: Governor Murphy's Remarks 5/5/20; https://nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200506b.shtml; NJ Health Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 5/20/20; Governor Murphy's Remarks 5/21/20; Health Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 6/5/20; https://nj.gov/health/legal/covid19/6-19-20_ExecutiveDirectiveNo20-017_StandardsProtocolsVisitorsFacilityStaff.pdf