On May 6, 2020, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) introduced new bipartisan legislation — the Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act of 2020 — to codify into federal law new requirements that nursing homes report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and that residents and their families be kept informed of infections inside the facilities; as well as requiring facilities have both a crisis plan in place to manage an outbreak and a stockpile of personal protect equipment (PPE) on hand.
There are currently more than 23,000 positive coronavirus cases within more than 500 long-term facilities throughout New Jersey. New Jersey’s long-term care facilities have reported more than 4,000 deaths thus far.
New Jersey continues to be ranked as the state with the second largest coronavirus outbreak in the country by total number of cases.
“New Jersey continues to be at the epicenter of this outbreak, and the crises taking place in our state’s long-term care facilities are absolutely heartbreaking. When this virus hits these vulnerable populations, it can spread like wildfire, and I’ve heard too many stories from across North Jersey that facility workers didn’t have the PPE they needed and that families didn’t know their loved ones might be infected until it was too late,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “With this new bill, we’re working to ensure facilities are adequately prepared with crisis plans in place, that they’re reporting outbreaks to our nation’s top infectious disease experts, and that residents and their loved ones are regularly updated on conditions inside these homes. Throughout this outbreak in North Jersey, I’ve been laser focused on ensuring our seniors, veterans, and residents in long-term care facilities are getting the care they need, pushing the state, HHS, VA, and National Guard for more sources and staff and stronger oversight.”
“The Trump Administration’s new reporting requirements for long term care facilities represent a major step forward in providing greater transparency and accountability and making these requirements permanent law ensures that key protocols to protect residents and help family members will remain in place long after the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4), a senior member of the congressional committee that oversees global health issues.
The Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act of 2020 will ensure that:
- Long-term care facilities report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks to the CDC.
- The required collection of this information will be used to support surveillance of COVID-19 locally and nationally, monitor trends in infection rates, and inform public health policies and actions.
- This information may be retained and publicly reported in accordance with law.
- Residents and their families are kept informed of outbreaks.
- At a minimum, nursing homes must inform residents and their families within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or three or more residents or staff with new-onset of respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours.
- Updates to residents and their families must be provided weekly, or each subsequent time a confirmed infection of COVID-19 is identified and/or whenever three or more residents or staff with new onset of respiratory symptoms occurs within 72 hours.
- Long-term care facilities have a crisis plan in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 or other pandemics.
- Facilities must establish a crisis plan to manage the outbreak of COVID–19 and other public health emergencies. Plans should outline procedures relating to infection control, staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE), outside medical providers and hospitalizations, and communication with family members.
- Long-term care facilities have a stockpile of PPE.
- Facilities must maintain a certain minimum amount of personal protect equipment (PPE) on hand to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 or other pandemics
Text of the Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act is available to view here.