The recent guidance by the New Jersey Department of Human Services reopening requirements for congregate day programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities fell short in the eyes of the newest North Jersey State Senator.
State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-39) commented the increased access does not fully deliver for the needs of the vulnerable population who have gone without a place to come together for support programs they require since March 2020.
“Families have been begging Gov. Murphy for months to reopen the adult day care programs that their loved ones with disabilities depend upon to build skills and socialize,” said Schepisi in a press statement. “Unfortunately, his long overdue response is so timid that half of the vulnerable population previously served by congregate day programs will continue to be denied access.”
Under the guidance released April 22, the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities-funded day programs can reopen with capacity limits tied to the COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) for the region in which they operate
Those in the Red and Orange CALI levels, very high and high in state terms, will be able to open respectively at 25% and 50% capacity after being previously not permitted to operate.
If a region is in the Yellow (moderate) level, the capacity level of 50% remains unchanged. Full capacity will be allowed for the Green (low) level; Green operators were allowed 50% capacity before the revision.
According to the state’s website, the North Jersey counties of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren are in the Orange category.
Not Far Enough
The 50% capacity is not enough for Schepisi, who wants the state to be more aggressive to help adults whose development has been harmed due to the closures during the pandemic.
“We’ve heard from desperate families that loved ones who once thrived in adult daycare programs are now regressing in ways that are absolutely heartbreaking after being home for so long,” added Schepisi. “At 50% capacity, Gov. Murphy is essentially telling those families that their fate is being left to the flip of a coin. They deserve better.”
Program providers who elect to open or re-open in the Very High, High and Moderate regions must inform participants of the region’s designation and that there is increased risk of coronavirus transmission in the region so that informed decisions on participation can be made by individuals, families and guardians.
Programs may re-open as early as they are able to come into compliance with the Congregate Day Program Re-Opening Requirements. Vaccination is not required for attendance, but the state is encouraging all individuals to get vaccinated.
The guidance notes that day program characteristics such as the use of communal spaces and shared transportation have the potential of increasing the risk of coronavirus spread. As written, the state notes even with prudent steps being taken to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, neither the day program provider nor the division can guarantee that transmission of coronavirus will not occur.
“An individual’s risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is higher if they have not been vaccinated, if the individual is not able to adhere to distancing and masking guidelines, and when COVID-19 activity is higher in their region,” according to the guidance. “It is important for individuals and their guardians to consider these risks against the benefits of participation when making decisions about day program attendance.”
The Division of Developmental Disabilities is recommending participants consult with a medical provider and other involved care team members about attending day programs and what activities are safe depending on the individual’s health status, vaccination status, and the COVID-19 activity level in their region.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 6,407,175 as of April 23. Of those who have received the vaccine, 3,968,541 residents have received their first dose with 2,682,510 receiving their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose; 52% have been administered the Pfizer vaccine, 44% the Moderna vaccine and 4% the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Demographically, 55% of those vaccinated are women and 45% men. As for ethnicity, 56% are White, 10% Hispanic, 10% Asian, 10% other, 8% unknown and 6% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 37% are 65 years old or olders, 29% are between the ages of 50-64, 25% are between the ages of 30-49, and 9% are between the ages of 16-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 716,212 doses (305,167 fully vaccinated), Essex 501,334 doses (198,778), Morris 444,381 doses (189,404), Hudson 401,367 doses (149,941), Passaic 301,650 doses (122,640), Sussex 97,321 doses (40,856), and Warren 62,133 doses (26,588).
As of April 23, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 870,986 with 2,479 total new PCR cases reported. There were 474 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 122,428. The total number of individual cases for the state is 993,414. 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 27 new deaths, bringing that total to 22,717. The state listed probable deaths at 2,611, bringing the overall total to 25,328. State officials noted 25 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on April 23, Bergen had a total of 215 new confirmed cases and 46 probable cases, Essex 313 new cases and 50 probable cases, Hudson 253 new cases and 50 probable cases, Morris 74 new cases and 20 probable cases, Passaic 249 new cases and 32 probable cases, Sussex 43 new cases and 17 probable cases, and Warren 29 cases and four new probable cases.
There are a total of 3,808 coronavirus variants being reported in the Garden State. State officials documented 2,275 cases of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7), 1,348 cases of the New York variant (B.1.526), 131 cases of the California variants (B.1.429 and B.1.427), 51 cases of the Brazilian (P.1) variant, and three cases of the South African (B.1351) variant.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,571, followed by Bergen at 2,514, Hudson with 1,991, Passaic at 1,654, Morris at 958, Sussex at 223 and Warren County at 205.
In regards to probable deaths reported April 21, Essex has 295, Bergen has 294, Morris has 249, Hudson has 210, Passaic has 195, Sussex has 67 and Warren has 25.
As for the rate of transmission, it remained unchanged for the third day in a row at 0.93. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of April 19, was 6.5%.
Officials reported 1,941 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 964, in the North, 568 in the Central and 409 in the South. Of those hospitalized, 453 are in intensive care units and 247 on ventilators. A total of 257 patients were discharged, while 238 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospilizations, 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 87,044, followed by Essex at 85,391, Middlesex at 84,270, Hudson at 78,104, Monmouth at 66,314, Ocean at 64,226, Passaic at 63,757, Union at 59,174, Camden at 46,937, Morris at 41,333, Burlington at 37,165, Mercer at 30,942, Gloucester at 25,551, Atlantic at 24,308, Somerset at 23,662, Cumberland at 14,081, Sussex at 11,247, Hunterdon at 8,544, Warren at 8,526, Salem at 5,242, and Cape May at 4,432.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 12,736, followed by Union at 10,593, Ocean at 9,785, Essex at 9,056, Hudson at 8,797, Morris at 7,819, Monmouth at 7,809, Middlesex at 7,137, Passaic at 7,004, Atlantic at 6,455, Burlington at 6,224, Camden at 6,207, Somerset at 5,562, Cape May at 4,422, Gloucester at 3,783, Mercer at 2,250, Cumberland at 2,206, Sussex at 2,146, Warren at 972, Hunterdon at 842 and Salem 518.
Another 736 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 245 outbreaks involving 1,094 cases have been reported, with nine new outbreaks accounting for 31 cases in the weekly update on April 21.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 52 confirmed outbreaks with 198 cases, Passaic County has 16 confirmed outbreaks with 52 cases, Warren has 14 confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Sussex has 12 confirmed outbreaks with 48 cases, Morris County has five confirmed outbreaks with 34 cases, Hudson County has five confirmed outbreaks with 23 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 6,431 of the cases, broken down between 2,805 residents and 3,626 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,405 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,733 residents and 21,960 staff, for a total of 54,693 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,021 on April 23. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,865 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.