NJ Health Commissioner Requires All LTCs to Implement Testing of Staff and Residents

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(Camden, NJ) – To limit exposure and reduce the spread of COVID-19, Heath Commissioner Judith Persichilli signed an Executive Directive yesterday, May 12, 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.

“Widespread testing is the only way our LTCs can get a handle on how many of their residents have contracted the virus and ensure that they do not spread it to others within the facility,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. “This is a necessary action to protect our vulnerable residents in these facilities which have already faced a devastating impact caused by coronavirus. The county asked these facilities to take up this objective in April, I applaud the state for mandating this vital initiative for resident and staff safety in all of our 56 organizations.”

Long-term care facilities also have to amend their outbreak plans to include strategies 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 state 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.

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 statewide. 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.