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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

NJ Health Commissioner Orders COVID-19 Testing in all Long-Term Care Facilities

NJ is implementing mandatory testing requirements for all staff and residents of nursing homes. The new testing requirement will establish objective evidence as to the existence of the COVID-19 infection to both essential workers and residents in nursing homes.

Approximately one-third of all COVID-19 fatals are related to nursing home exposures. This requirement will put nursing homes on notice to maintain safer facilities and safer working conditions. The testing results will provide scientific evidence to support workers' compensation claims by employees.

To limit exposure and reduce the spread of COVID-19, Heath Commissioner Judith Persichilli today signed an Executive Directive requiring all long-term care facilities in the state to implement testing of staff and residents for the virus by May 26.

In addition, the Executive Directive provides for retesting of individuals who test negative within 3-7 days to detect those with newly developed infection, and further retesting in according with CDC guidance.

Long-term care facilities also have to amend their outbreak plans to include plans for testing and retesting staff and residents, cohorting of residents who test positive, policies for excluding staff who test positive as well and timeframes and requirements for returning to work in accordance with CDC and Department of Health recommendations.

Testing of vulnerable residents in long-term care facilities is essential to control the spread of COVID-19 and to identify asymptomatic but positive residents so they can be cohorted based on test results. Testing health care providers and support staff in all long-term facilities is critical because they may be unknowingly contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

“We want to collaborate with long-term care facilities to protect their residents and staff. We all have a role to play in this,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Test results would be used to strengthen infection control and prevention strategies. If staff test positive for COVID-19 (symptomatic or asymptomatic), they may return to work in line with CDC and Department of Health recommendations.

There are 90,000 residents in nursing homes and Assisted Living facilities. Nearly 26,000 positive cases have been reported from these facilities.

The Executive Directive applies to licensed nursing homes, Assisted Living facilities, dementia care homes, residential health care facilities and comprehensive personal care homes.

Last month, the state completed a pilot project testing 4,600 residents and staff in 16 South Jersey long-term care facilities. A majority of those who tested positive were asymptomatic. This led the state to develop a statewide testing plan in three additional phases in coordination with hospitals throughout the state. The second phase, which includes 76 additional facilities with 10,324 beds, is ongoing.

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation
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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters