Two North Jersey Congressman plan to introduce bills to improve oversight of long-term care facilities and strengthen the laws governing their pandemic response.
Reps. Bill Pascrell and Mikie Sherrill will submit legislation protecting residents in nursing homes that have been disportionately affected by COVID-19—only 0.5% of U.S. residents live in nursing homes but have accounted for 40% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths.
“Our bills will not only protect residents in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, they will also prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks, ensuring that we can safeguard our nation’s vulnerable long-term care facility residents,” stated Pascrell.
The PREPARE LTC Act
The first bill, Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act (PREPARE LTC Act), would codify statutes to restore regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities. The legislation requires facilities to establish and maintain an infection prevention and control program and an emergency plan that ensures a proper response during an emergency situation.
“While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, there were not only existing gaps and deficiencies that went unaddressed, but the Trump administration was actively rolling back many of the protections and rights of nursing home residents,” said Rep. Pascrell.
“These actions have allowed long-standing issues to fester in nursing facilities, callously endangering millions of seniors. The bill prevents the (the government) from waiving or suspending staffing reporting and critical inspections during a pandemic.”
The PROTECT LTC Act
The congressman noted The PREPARE Act requires reporting developed for COVID-19 and broadens that reporting to include any infectious disease outbreak within nursing facilities.
The second measure, The Protecting Residents with Oversight, Transparency and Enforcement for Compassionate Treatment in Long-Term Care Act (PROTECT LTC Act) provides $100 million to increase investigations and surveys, purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), and boost staffing levels. The bill increases civil monetary penalties for outbreak-specific violations at nursing homes, including staff shortages, overcrowding, and insufficient PPE.
“The rollbacks of protections by this administration made the spread of COVID in nursing homes far worse than it needed to be,” said Rep. Sherrill. “This bill will provide critical funding for the resources and direction needed to catch outbreaks early and hold bad actors accountable.”
Under this legislation, state agencies must complete a standard assessment within four weeks of an outbreak and every six months afterward. State survey agencies will have flexibility on timing and will prioritize follow-up assessments for facilities in areas with a high infection rate and those with a history of low staffing or that have previously been out of compliance.
More than 75,000 Americans have died from COVID in nursing homes—more that 7,000 in New Jersey alone. While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, lawmakers believe existing gaps were exacerbated by Trump Administration actions that rolled back protections for the rights of nursing home residents.
“Nursing home residents have been particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Richard Mollot, Executive Director at the Long-Term Care Community Coalition. “The PREPARE Act and the PROTECT Act would put in place essential safeguards that would provide both immediate and long-term benefits for residents and their families.”
As of Oct. 14, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 216,023 with 953 new cases and nine new deaths were reported, bringing that total to 14,402. The state probable death is 1,789, bringing the overall total to 16,191.
State officials noted 10 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,904, followed by Bergen at 1,808, Hudson with 1,361, Passaic at 1,117, Morris at 688, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.
In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 242, Essex has 230, Hudson has 159, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.
The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Oct. 4 was 3.7%. By region, the North has a rate of 2.1%, Central at 2.9% and the South at 2.6%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.15 from 1.16 the day before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.
Officials reported 699 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 313 in the North, 218 in the Central and 168 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 168 are in intensive care units and 58 on ventilators, while 71 patients were discharged.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 23,391, followed by Essex at 22,018, Hudson at 21,347, Middlesex at 20,552, Passaic at 19,768, Union at 18,375, Ocean at 15,578, Monmouth at 13,020, Camden at 10,590, Mercer at 8,866, Morris at 8,230, Burlington at 7,662, Somerset at 6,060, Gloucester at 5,043, Atlantic at 4,532, Cumberland at 3,882, Sussex at 1,584, Warren at 1,493, Hunterdon at 1,466, Salem at 1,125 and Cape May at 1,058.
Another 383 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 16 outbreaks involving 58 cases have been reported in nine of the 21 counties in the Garden State. For North Jersey, Bergen County has two confirmed outbreaks with five cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 150 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 5,467 of the cases, broken down between 3,252 residents and 2,215 staff.
Cumulatively, 753 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,360 residents and 13,811 staff, for a total of 39,171 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,185 on Oct. 14. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,804 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths.