MORRIS COUNTY — Amid reports that the state’s long-term care facilities are failing to properly notify staff, caregivers and families of COVID-19 outbreaks, Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney is calling on the Department of Health to force compliance with their updated directives and state law.
Under state law that went into effect in February, nursing homes must have outbreak response plans that include policies regarding notifying residents, staff and families. The law was in response to an adenovirus outbreak at a Wanaque nursing home that killed 11 children.
“It is heartbreaking to see loved ones in despair because the facilities are not answering the phone lines or communicating on how their family member is currently doing,” said Rooney (R-Bergen). “The lack of transparency at many of these facilities has to be fixed immediately to protect the staff, the residents and their family who are suffering in silence.”
Last week, the health department issued directives requiring nursing homes to notify their residents and staff, along with residents’ families, about cases of coronavirus within their facilities. The facilities were to comply with the orders by Monday. It is not clear how many facilities did not meet the deadline.
“Clear communication is critical right now. These are life and death situations. Nearly half of those who died are 80 or older,” explained Rooney.
At the governor’s daily coronavirus briefing Thursday, it was reported that 262 of the state’s 375 long-term care facilities have at least one positive case of COVID-19. There are 3,388 residents in long-term care, assisted living and dementia care facilities testing positive. Twenty of the new 198 coronavirus-related deaths Thursday were residents of these facilities.
The state’s three veteran homes have also been affected by the coronavirus, particularly the facility in Paramus, which reported 40 cases. In total, veteran homes have 58 positive cases and 13 deaths.
“Our veterans, our nursing home residents, health care workers and their loved ones deserve better,” said Rooney. “Family can’t visit their loved ones right now and some facilities are cutting off other forms of contact. It’s unacceptable.”
The health department said residents of nursing homes and staff members must be notified in person and in writing of a coronavirus outbreak. Families or whoever is designated responsible for the resident must be reached by telephone, email or another form of communication within 24 hours and in writing within three days. Notification must happen when a resident or staff member has a confirmed case or is under investigation for coronavirus.