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Menendez, Pascrell, Sherrill Propose Bill to Mandate Standards at Long-term Care Facilities

Three North Jersey federal legislators recently introduced legislation to restore regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities that were rolled back under the Trump Administration.

The bicameral legislation is sponsored by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Mikie Sherrill in the House  along with Sen. Bob Menendez in the Senate. Called the The Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act (PREPARE LTC Act), the proposed law would require facilities to establish and maintain an infection prevention program and an emergency plan to protect residents during emergency situations. 

“The impact of COVID-19 on our nation has been devastating. The impact of the virus on our nursing homes has been cataclysmic,” said Pascrell. “Our legislation will protect residents now and prepare for future outbreaks. 

PREPARE LTC Act

“Importantly, this bill will mandate transparency so families can know their relatives are safe. Families were kept in the dark. This cannot be allowed to happen again.”

The bill prevents the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services from waiving or suspending staffing reporting and critical inspections during a pandemic. The PREPARE LTC Act would mandate that any reporting developed for COVID-19 include information on infectious disease outbreaks within nursing facilities.

Rep. Sherrill believes that too many Americans died in nursing homes during the COVID-19 that didn’t’ have to. Their proposed law to ensure pandemic preparedness in nursing homes by providing states the resources necessary to monitor and fix any issues that arise.

Oversight Needed

“A generally callous approach to our seniors in long-term care facilities, including years of decreased oversight, transparency, and enforcement, has resulted in tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths,” said Sherrill. ”Instead, strong infection controls and oversight are key to health and safety in nursing homes. Seniors and their families deserve to know that we are doing everything we can to make our nursing homes safe.”

Of the 484,000 Americans now dead from COVID-19, more than 160,000 Americans have died in nursing homes, nearly 8,000 in New Jersey alone. 

Menendez noted COVID-19 has been devastating, particularly for seniors and those living in nursing or long-term care facilities where the death toll has been an astounding over one-third of all lives lost to the pandemic in New Jersey.  

Infectious Outbreaks

“It is critical that long-term care facilities are prepared to deal with infectious disease outbreaks within their walls and have programs in place to protect residents during emergencies,” said Menendez. “Our bill not only requires these programs be instituted in every skilled nursing facility, but also strengthens oversight and transparency to help provide families greater peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving proper care.”      

The two members of the House said the legislation is needed after deregulation efforts on the industry overseen by the Trump Administration.

Pascrell stated the legislation is needed as “the misery wrought on our seniors was exacerbated by the Trump regime” that repealed regulations that caused years of what he considers unnecessary and unconscionable deregulation across the industry. 

Trump Rollbacks

“The previous administration went out of its way to disregard safety and undermine accountability,’ stated Pasrell. 

Sherrill said the proposed law is needed after the Trump administration rolled back critical infection control measures that could have helped protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, the Trump administration’s actions allowed long-standing issues to proliferate in nursing facilities, exacerbating the situation for our nation’s seniors,” said Sherrill. “ We are reintroducing the PREPARE LTC Act to improve oversight, accountability, and safety in America’s long term care facilities.” 

Daily Data

Combined on Feb. 13 and 14, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 665,197 with 5,209 total new PCR cases reported. There were 1,155 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 80,790. The total number of individual cases for the state is 745,987. Gov. Phil Murphy noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.

As for those that have passed, the state reported 62 new deaths, bringing that total to 20,208. The state listed probable deaths at 2,246, bringing the overall total to 22,454. State officials noted 72 deaths occurred in the last 48 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

For North Jersey counties on Feb. 14, Bergen had a total of 214 new confirmed cases and 54 probable cases, Essex 182 new cases and 35 probable cases, Hudson 169 new cases and 56 probable cases, Morris 111 new cases and and 41 probable cases, Passaic 156 new cases and 36 probable cases, Sussex 29 new cases and 11 probable cases, and Warren 14 cases and no new probable cases.

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,342, followed by Bergen at 2,276, Hudson with 1,768, Passaic at 1,474, Morris at 874, Sussex at 206 and Warren County at 191.

In regards to probable deaths reported Feb. 3, Bergen has 277, Essex has 261, Morris at 222, Hudson has 177, Passaic at 167, Sussex has 61 and Warren has 18.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 6, was 12.2%; by region, the rate was 12.9% in the North, 12.7% in the Central region and 9.6% in the South. 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 increased to 0.86 from 0.84 the previous day. 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 2,449 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,149 in the North, 756 in the Central and 544 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 520 are in intensive care units and 326 on ventilators. A total of 310 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 64,665, followed by Middlesex at 64,120, Essex at 63,910, Hudson at 60,159, Passaic at 50,046, Ocean at 48,825, Monmouth at 48,280, Union at 46,805, Camden at 37,972, Morris at 30,130, Burlington at 29,609, Mercer at 25,017, Gloucester at 20,169, Atlantic at 18,688, Somerset at 17,557, Cumberland at 11,512, Sussex at 7,478, Warren at 5,929, Hunterdon at 5,857, Salem at 4,062, and Cape May at 3,471.  

In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 7,755, followed by Union at 7,224, Ocean at 5,987, Essex at 5,754, Morris at 5,138, Hudson at 5,116, Monmouth at 4,828, Atlantic at 4,761, Middlesex at 4,636, Passaic at 4,426, Camden at 4,444, Burlington at 4,114, Somerset at 3,880, Cape May at 3,276, Gloucester at 2,964, Cumberland at 2,129, Mercer at 1,512, Sussex at 1,065, Warren at 683, Hunterdon at 599, and Salem 453.

Another 936 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 142 outbreaks involving 671 cases, with five new outbreaks accounting for 16 cases reported in the weekly update on Feb. 10. 

For North Jersey, Bergen County has 32 confirmed outbreaks with 129 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Hudson County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases, Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases and Morris County has two confirmed outbreaks with 10 cases.

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 399 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 14,088 of the cases, broken down between 6,940 residents and 7,148 staff. 

Cumulatively, 1,243 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,027 residents and 20,740 staff, for a total of 52,767 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,846 on Feb. 12. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,767 residents deaths and 145 staff deaths.

Vaccine Distribution

The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 1,314,185 as of Feb. 14. Of those who have received the vaccine, 984,737 residents have received their first dose with 355,862 their second; 55% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 45% the Pfizer. 

Demographically, 59% of those vaccinated are women and 41% men. As for ethnicity, 51% are White, 18% unknown, 17% other, 6% Asian, 5% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 37% are 65 years old or olders, 28% are between the ages of 50-64, 26% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.  

In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 149,961 doses, Essex 110,388 doses, Morris 97,238 doses, Passaic 58,083 doses, Hudson 61,634 doses, Sussex 20,746 doses, and Warren 12,844 doses. 

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