Yesterday, Governor Phil Murphy quickly moved to ramp up New Jersey’s preparedness to contain the spread of COVID-19. As part of the state’s coordinated response to address the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Governor declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency, issuing Executive Order No. 103, to immediately ramp up New Jersey’s efforts across all 21 counties in New Jersey to allow state agencies and departments to respond to affected communities and recovering from COVID-19 cases.
“The State of New Jersey is committed to deploying every available resource, across all levels of government, to help respond to the spread of COVID-19 and keep our residents informed,” said Governor Murphy in a March 9 statement. “My Administration will continue to work closely with our federal partners to ensure that local health agencies on the front lines of the state’s response are equipped with the resources needed to further prepare our health care system for a broader spread of COVID-19,” said the Governor.
The emergency declaration tasks the State Director of Emergency Management and Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, Colonel Patrick Callahan, in conjunction with New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner, Judith Persichilli, to oversee the implementation of the State Emergency Operations plan and generally direct the State’s emergency response.
Additionally, the statement noted that the emergency declaration also triggers other executive powers and safeguards, such as prohibiting excessive price increases pursuant to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and the ability to waive certain procurement procedures to expedite the delivery of goods and services necessary for coronavirus preparedness and response efforts.
Governor Murphy’s emergency declaration also empowers all State agencies, specifically the Departments of Banking and Insurance, Health, Human Services, and the Civil Service Commission to take all appropriate steps to address the public health hazard of COVID-19.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Briefs LTC Facility Leaders
On March 9, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli held a conference call for more than 400 long-term care facility leaders to outline important steps to take to protect their residents from novel coronavirus. The Commissioner reminded facilities to screen visitors, and restrict visitors if necessary, for symptoms of respiratory illness such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing before entering healthcare facilities.
“Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities take care of one of the most vulnerable populations,” said Commissioner Persichilli. “Much is still unknown about the virus, but what we have seen so far is that it has been mostly older adults and those with underlying conditions who have had the most severe disease, so it imperative that facilities take steps to prepare,” she said.
Last week, New Jersey’s Health Department issued guidelines to long-term care facilities on COVID-19.
The guidelines call on facilities to continue monitoring residents for symptoms of respiratory virus. Sick employees with respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) should be instructed not to report to work. Administrators, Infection Preventionists and healthcare providers should also carefully review existing emergency preparedness and outbreak response plans. Facilities should ensure healthcare personnel infection prevention competency-based training and do an assessment to ensure they are skilled in prevention control.
In additional, the guidelines called for healthcare personnel who come in close contact with individuals with confirmed or possible COVID-19 to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). They should be trained on how to properly use PPE and conduct an inventory of PPE supplies. Finally, long-term care staff should also review CDC Interim Guidance for Healthcare Facilities: Preparing for Community Transmission of COVID-19 in the United States, which is available on the CDC website.
For the latest information on novel coronavirus, please visit www.nj.gov/health or call 1-800-222-1222 or 1-800-962-1253 (if using out-of-state phone line).