In preparation of a potential second wave of COVID-19, State Sen. Robert Singer planned to introduce a bill that would improve pandemic resilience and readiness among local and county health departments.
Singer noted the current wave of COVID-19 stressed the capabilities of these health departments to a breaking point, much like it did to healthcare workers and first responders. The legislation seeks to improve preparedness for a resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall.
“Health experts and scientists warn a second wave of COVID is almost inevitable without coordinated, aggressive efforts,” said Singer. “The next round could be even more dangerous, and it is essential our local and county health departments have the tools necessary to effectively respond to outbreaks.”
Launching a Study to Inform Decisions
The legislation would establish the “Local Health Department Infectious Disease Study Commision” to better understand the roles, response, and responsibilities of local and county health department in contending with the pandemic.
Singer argued the study could provide insight into why implementing testing across the state was a slow process. “The study commission will provide vital insight if the Administration plans to continue relying on local and county departments to carry the ball,” the state senator said.
A ProPublica report found New Jersey depended upon local health departments more than any other state. Additionally, the report found these smaller health departments did not receive the guidance from the state that they sought regarding their handling of pandemic response efforts.
Preparing for the Future
The study cited instances where secretaries were working as contract tracers, and even a situation where a person normally in charge of pet shops and tattoo parlors was assigned to monitor nursing homes.
These situations added to growing concerns that increasing workloads on local and county departments could cause issues in the future. The study seeks to inform guidance to help local departments for future public health challenges.
“The pandemic has stretched local and county departments far beyond their missions, and we must examine why we’re the only state operating this way,” Singer said.