As COVID-19 cases slowly rise in New Jersey and across the country, one in four nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state have reported outbreaks in the past week. State Department of Health data.
But since neither Governor Murphy’s administration nor the Biden administration have released recent policy changes, don’t expect a return to lockdowns or other draconian measures from the early days of the pandemic.
With the lifting of a national health emergency in May and the widespread availability of vaccines and boosters, nursing home operators are now deciding how to manage cases as cases have surged in the past month, Health Care President Andrew Aronson said. Association of New Jersey, an advocacy group for the long-term care profession.
In the first year of the epidemic, state and federal health officials halted in-patient visits, as frustrated families said their loved ones had become isolated and depressed.
“The good news is that we are now better prepared to prevent and manage COVID-19 than ever before, thanks to existing vaccines and treatments,” Aronson said.
According to state data updated Wednesday, there are 158 active nursing home outbreaks — up from last week — affecting 1,327 residents and 534 staff. Aronson said there are 615 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state.
No wonder the rise in Covid-19 in nursing homes and hospitalizations across the country RUp almost 19% in the last week 15,067, including 294 in New Jersey, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say visitors and staff have been the source of the outbreak at long-term care facilities since the coronavirus was first detected in New Jersey in early March 2020.
Since then, 10,233 long-term care residents and staff have died from COVID-19, including 15 confirmed cases in the past week, according to health department data.
At least 200 of those deaths occurred at three state-run veterans homes — nursing homes for veterans and their spouses in Edison, Paramus and Vineland.
Amid the latest outbreak, Vineland administrators closed a section inside the Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, said Lt. Col. Agnetta E. Murnan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Seven residents and four employees at Vineland have tested positive for COVID-19, Murnan said.
Nancy Kearney, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said nursing homes must hire an infection control specialist to manage any outbreaks and implement other “best practices to ensure their residents and staff are safe.”
As part of those procedures required by state and federal governments, residents and their representatives must be notified if someone on site tests positive, By order of former Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Aronson said operators are routinely trained in infection control procedures and encouraged to receive booster shots. “Many facilities have (vaccination) drives for flu and Covid,” he said. “A lot of work has been done to encourage people to get vaccinated and to make it as easy as possible.”
“The last time we saw an increase in cases, people were worried that the death rates would increase, which is not the case. Let’s hope this will be the same – cases will increase over a period of time and then decrease as quickly as possible,” he said.
Long-term care ombudsman Larry Brewer said so far, “The facilities and the residents who live there seem to be taking this latest outbreak in stride.”
We are seeing more masks and some facilities have resumed temperature testing. However, we have not received widespread reports of reduced attendance or activities,” Brewer said. “However, this is to be expected because state and federal guidelines do not allow for the type of lockdowns we saw 2 or 3 years ago.”
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