NEW JERSEY – The onset of the COVID pandemic exposed a severe shortage of masks, gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment in the state and across the nation. Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho and Senator Linda Greenstein would prevent scarcities in the future and at the same time bolster the New Jersey manufacturing industry.
The bill (S-2991) requires the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to establish a process to evaluate and approve personal protective equipment (PPE) for use during public health emergencies. It also requires the state to develop a stockpile of equipment.
“The virus strained the resources of the health care system and there wasn’t enough ready access to equipment needed to help prevent the spread of the virus. That can’t happen again,” Oroho (R-24) said. “With this bill, we can help ensure a sufficient supply of protective gloves, masks, and gowns to defend against a viral outbreak and protect medical workers and patients, and we can put New Jersey factories to work making the gear.”
During the pandemic, many manufacturers were unable to convert production to creating PPE because the businesses were not approved by federal agencies.
Introduced by the co-chairs of New Jersey’s Legislative Manufacturing Caucus, the Greenstein/Oroho bill establishes an approval process and sets a goal for the in-state manufacture of a minimum of 50 percent of the stockpiled PPE.
“We have to be prepared to protect the health and safety of healthcare professionals and New Jerseyans if we experience another public health crisis involving an infectious disease,” said Senator Greenstein (D Middlesex/Mercer), who serves as a co-chair of the New Jersey’s Legislative Manufacturing Caucus. “One of the harsh lessons we learned from the COVID pandemic is that we can’t always rely on the federal government. This action will help equip the state with personal protective equipment that is ‘made in New Jersey’ and it will enlist New Jersey businesses and workers as a resource in any public health emergency.”
In addition, the measure creates a liability exemption for anyone using PPE approved by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management provided the equipment was used for approved purposes.
“We are fulfilling the mission of the Manufacturing Caucus – helping New Jersey manufacturers thrive for the benefit of New Jersey residents,” Oroho said. “Businesses in the state are well-equipped with a skilled workforce to produce quality PPE that protects the public from the virus. ‘Made in New Jersey’ makes us Jersey strong.”