Republican State Senators are pushing Gov. Phil Murphy to ease requirements for reopening adult day care facilities throughout New Jersey.
The North Jersey pair—State Sens. Anthony Bucco and Kristin Corrado— contend that Murphy’s coronavirus standards for reopening “congregate day programs” are inconsistent, thereby harming thousands of New Jersey residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have gone without this source of care for the past year.
Bucco (R-25) said in a March 29 letter to Murphy that March 15 guidelines for reopening congregate day program—a program where people congregate in groups for extended periods, but do not reside in the setting—sets the bar way too high, essentially keeping the facilities shuttered. Corrado (R-40) expressed similar concerns March 31, calling on Murphy to reopen adult day care facilities throughout the state, including congregate day care programs.
“Congregate day programs provide vital services to thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Corrado said in a press statement. “I hear from families every day about the value of these community-based programs, and how they allow so many adults to live their lives as independently as possible. By preventing these facilities from reopening, the Governor is effectively impeding the developmental progress of thousands of disabled New Jerseyans.”
Bucco echoed these concerns in his letter to Murphy, stating, “I am extremely concerned that their continued shutdown will have a severe impact on those who need (congregate day programs) the most.”
The Morris County lawmaker added such programs “are community-based, and give individuals the tools to learn new skills, build long-lasting friendships, and become caring, responsible adults. Unfortunately, the mandatory closures due to COVID-19 restrictions prevents this vital communal interaction.”
Guidelines Too Restrictive
Congregate day programs are funded and overseen by New Jerseys’ Division of Developmental Disabilities, which is part of the state’s Department of Human Services. The Division of Developmental Disabilities said in March 15 reopening guidelines that day programs that met certain standards could reopen, beginning on March 29.
Both Bucco and Corrado said that those standards set a higher bar for congregate day programs than for New Jersey’s public schools. The March 15 reopening requirements stipulate that day programs must fall within the required categories of the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI).
Corrado noted that, as of the latest report, most New Jersey counties are classified as having a “high” CALI rating, and thus their day programs must remain closed.
“The reopening guidelines for adult day care programs are not only bizarre, but they do not even coincide with the school reopening guidelines,” Corrado said. She noted that many schools in New Jersey have remained open for several months in some form for in-person instruction—even if those schools are located in counties with a “High” CALI rating.
“There is no rational reason for why schools can remain open and congregate day programs cannot. I am calling on the Governor to reopen these facilities so that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can receive the services they deserve,” she added.
Bucco wrote that the state requirements “are far more strict than those that apply to public schools and will prevent most of the day programs from reopening.”
When questioned about the subject at a press briefing April 5, Murphy said “I know there’s a lot of very rightful concern. I know our team is reviewing the developmental disability visitation realities, and I know (we are) going to start to consider factoring in vaccination levels as part of that.”
Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli added “We do rely on the CALI scores, but they are used as a guide for the Department of Human Services who actually develop the plans for the disability population. We work in concert with them, but the CALI score definitely points us in a direction to be more conservative or more protective than not.”
State Says Standards ‘Guided by Data’
New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities said that the March 15 guidelines were “substantially derived” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New Jersey Department of Health guidance and documents.
New Jersey’s restart and recovery is guided by data, improvements in public health, and the capacity to safeguard the public, according to the agency. The document outlines additional rules for facilities, beyond counties’ CALI ratingsm, including standards for ventilation, screening and admittance, face coverings and personal protective equipment, and hygiene practices.
Bucco said the guidelines were “burdensome,” and he urged Murphy to “reconsider the reopening protocols for these programs and allow day programs for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reopen.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 4,794,010 as of April 6. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,065,644 residents have received their first dose with 1,845,335 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 51% have been administered the Pfizer vaccine, 46% the Moderna vaccine and 2% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 56% of those vaccinated are women and 44% men. As for ethnicity, 58% are White, 11% other, 9% unknown, 8% Asian, 8% Hispanic and 5% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 38% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 40-49, and 9% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 539,433 doses, Essex 366,825 doses, Morris 343,019 doses, Hudson 265,529 doses, Passaic 216,144 doses, Sussex 76,533 doses, and Warren 48,426 doses.
As of April 6, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 820,686 with 3,382 total new PCR cases reported. There were 700 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 113,050. The total number of individual cases for the state is 933,736. Gov. Murphy previously 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 53 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,132. The state listed probable deaths at 2,568, bringing the overall total to 24,700. State officials noted 26 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on April 6, Bergen had a total of 386 new confirmed cases and 83 probable cases, Essex 361 new cases and 55 probable cases, Hudson 263 new cases and 45 probable cases, Morris 207 new cases and 56 probable cases, Passaic 324 new cases and 41 probable cases, Sussex 46 new cases and 20 probable cases, and Warren 33 cases and three new probable cases.
There are a total of 645 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 627 cases of the U.K. variant, eight cases of the California variants, eight cases of the Brazilian P1 variant, and two cases of the South African variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,520, followed by Bergen at 2,455, Hudson with 1,937, Passaic at 1,610, Morris at 940, Sussex at 219 and Warren County at 204.
In regards to probable deaths reported March 31, Bergen has 295, Essex has 290, Morris has 243, Hudson has 201, Passaic has 194, Sussex has 66 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it decreased to 1.06 from 1.07 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 1, was 9.1%; by region, the rate was 9.1% in the North, 9.6% in the Central region and 8.5% in the South.
Officials reported 2,329 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 1,203 in the North, 694 in the Central and 432 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 461 are in intensive care units and 227 on ventilators. A total of 202 patients were discharged, while 239 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 82,406, followed by Essex at 79,387, Middlesex at 79,107, Hudson at 73,802, Monmouth at 62,506, Ocean at 61,226, Passaic at 59,718, Union at 55,996, Camden at 44,267, Morris at 39,116, Burlington at 35,249, Mercer at 29,428, Gloucester at 23,949, Atlantic at 22,838, Somerset at 22,286, Cumberland at 13,347, Sussex at 10,319, Warren at 7,860, Hunterdon at 7,919, Salem at 4,848, and Cape May at 4,219.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 11,724, followed by Union at 9,743, Ocean at 9,024, Essex at 8,254, Hudson at 8,017, Monmouth at 7,275, Morris at 7,174, Middlesex at 6,540, Passaic at 6,402, Atlantic at 6,112, Camden at 5,696, Burlington at 5,710, Somerset at 5,210, Cape May at 4,219, Gloucester at 3,569, Cumberland at 2,183, Mercer at 2,069, Sussex at 1,859, Warren at 856, Hunterdon at 769 and Salem 497.
Another 880 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 240 outbreaks involving 1,070 cases have been reported, with 35 new outbreaks accounting for 123 cases in the weekly update on April 6.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 51 confirmed outbreaks with 196 cases, Passaic County has 15 confirmed outbreaks with 50 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has 11 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has four confirmed outbreaks with 21 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 229 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 7,918 of the cases, broken down between 3,546 residents and 4,372 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,339 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,549 residents and 21,712 staff, for a total of 54,261 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,991 on April 6. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,853 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.