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What is the State doing to protect residents and staff of nursing homes or 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 a comprehensive testing plan for residents and staff; baseline testing was completed for all residents and staff by the end of May and retesting continues for residents and staff who have tested negative; as of August 10, more than 310,000 tests have been completed on residents and 495,000 tests for staff
- 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
- The positivity rate for long-term care residents has been reduced from 6% in May to less than 1% in July, and the positivity rate for staff has fallen from 3% in May to less than 1% in July
- Increasing the personal protective equipment (PPE) available to these facilities; as of July 22, the State has distributed more than 30 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
- 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 implemented several key recommendations, including clearing more than 3,600 backlogged complaints, completing and publicly posting infection control surveys from nearly 470 facilities, and setting up a central Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center.
The Department of Health has also announced a directive that sets mandatory benchmarks for New Jersey's long-term care facilities as they look to reopen to visitors and resume normal operations. The directive will also establish strong baseline infection-control measures, as well as requirements for PPE stockpiling and resident and staff testing – including weekly coronavirus tests for all staff. For more details, refer to Executive Directive No. 20-026.
To support long-term care facilities, the Governor announced the State is preparing to commit a total of $155 million dollars in state and federal funds to bolster staff testing programs, increase wages, and meet the more-stringent criteria for reopening that are being put in place.
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; Commissioner Persichilli's Remarks 7/6/20; ; Commissioner Persichiili's Remarks 7/22/20; Governor Murphy's Remarks 8/10/20; Executive Directive No. 20-026.