U.S. Sen. Cory Booker has signed on to shepherd legislation focusing on long-term care facilities that is co-sponsored by Rep. John Gottheimer in the House.
The bipartisan Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act of 2020 was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Gottheimer and GOP Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4). The proposed law would require long-term care facilities to have a crisis plan in place to manage an outbreak, facilities to keep a stockpile of personal protection equipment on hand, have nursing homes report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks, and work to ensure that residents and their families be kept informed of infections inside the facilities.
“We have to make sure we make long-term changes in our long-term care facilities,” said Booker in call with Gottheimer announcing his support for the proposed law. “I am really proud of this bill and have confidence we can get this addressed.”
There have been just under 40,000 positive COVID-19 cases within more than 700 long-term facilities throughout New Jersey. New Jersey’s long-term care facilities have reported approximately 6,200 deaths thus far.
Booker described the breakouts at long-term care facilities as “a national shame. This COVID crisis has exposed such weakness and fragility in inadequate oversight.”
“This is a moral moment. You judge a society not by the height of its building or the wealth of its wealthiest, but you judge a society about how it treats its children, how it treats its elders.”
Booker said he was proud to work with Gottheimer on the legislation to ensure long-term care facilities have the resources they need to protect residents and staff during this public health crisis and moving forward.
Preparing Long-term Care Facilities
“Long-term care facility residents, staff, and their families deserve to have the peace of mind that their facilities are prepared to deal with pandemics like the one we’re facing today, and that includes requiring all facilities to implement comprehensive reporting measures, crisis planning, and ensuring adequate PPE is available,” said Booker. “I am proud to work on this legislation to ensure our long-term care facilities have the resources they need to protect residents and staff during this public health crisis and beyond.”
The bill mandates communication standards to have facilities at a minimum inform residents and their families within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or three or more residents or staff with new-onset respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours. Following the initial update, residents and their families must be provided weekly, or each subsequent time a confirmed infection of COVID-19 is identified and/or whenever three or more residents or staff with new respiratory symptoms occur within 72 hours.
Protecting Vulnerable Populations
Long-term care facilities crisis plans are to outline procedures relating to infection control, staffing, PPE, outside medical providers and hospitalizations, and communication with family members. In regards to PPE’s, facilities must maintain a certain minimum amount on hand to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 or other pandemics.
“When this virus hits these vulnerable populations, if a facility doesn’t have the proper precautions and plans in place, it can spread like wildfire,” said Gottheimer. “I’ve heard too many devastating stories from across North Jersey that families didn’t know their loved ones might be infected until it was too late.”
The congressman added, “Ensuring facilities are communicating outbreaks to the CDC, to their residents, and to loved ones, and ensuring crisis plans and stockpiles of PPE are in place are vital protections our seniors and veterans need as we enter the Fall, Winter, and Flu season.”