With hospitalization projected to rise in the fourth wave of coronavirus infections, legislation was put on Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk to bolster the state’s personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles.
The legislative mandate would require a process for the state to assess and approve PPE, and create two stockpiles. The bill passed unanimously in both the full Assembly and State Senate.
The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM) would have jurisdiction over the stockpiles, alongside the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and New Jersey Department of Health (DOH). The Director of the Division of Purchase and Property would consult with the state’s Office of OEM, EDA, and DOH in awarding contracts for the procurement of PPE made by business that typically do not produce the products.
The bipartisan legislation is necessary to protect frontline workers, according to Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26).
“Without the proper protective equipment at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, our essential and frontline workers were put in precarious positions,” said DeCroce in a press statement. “We need to make sure this never happens again by making the process easier for manufacturers to start producing equipment and creating a plan to stockpile it in the state.”
Under the bill, OEM would be given the ability to make a PPE stockpile available to the State and its political subdivision, public and nonpublic schools, state hospitals, and state nursing homes without a fee.
Use and Maintenance of the Stockpiles
Additionally, each stockpile would be filled to a capacity determined by OEM, EDA, and DOH. At least one third of the capacity would be filled until capacity was met.
“By creating a certification program for manufacturers to shift production purposes and establishing a sufficient State stockpile, we will ensure New Jersey is better prepared to respond to future threats to public health,” said Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35).
The stockpiles would be separated into one that contains federally-approved PPE, while the other would contain OEM-approved PPE.
DeCroce highlighted some New Jersey manufacturers who had shifted operations to make PPE, including Suuchi Inc. and Eclipse.
“We shouldn’t solely rely on the federal government to approve New Jersey businesses transitioning from manufacturing one type of product to producing much-needed personal protective equipment during emergencies,” she said.
“We have capable and successful manufacturers that can produce those supplies in New Jersey. We should be helping keep them in business so people can stay employed.”
Persichilli Prepares Hospitals
NJDOH Commissioner Judy Persichilli said after sharing the predictive modeling with the hospital CEOs across the state prepare them for the expected new COVID-19 hospilizations for “a long and difficult Spring and Summer.”
“We cannot forget the dark days of April last year where we had shortages of PPE and ventilators,” said Persichilli during a press briefing March 31. “We had to bring up field medical stations. Tents were set up in hospital parking lots. Unused wings and cafeterias were converted all to make bed space for critical COVID patients.”
Persichilli does believe the state currently has adequate PPE supplies but “we must work together and be vigilant so we ensure that we don’t slip backwards.”