NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) Wednesday released a new directive to long-term care facilities to accommodate more visitation, group activities and the provision of services for residents after vaccination which align with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
“With cases in New Jersey on the decline, vaccinations increasing and a reduction in outbreaks at these facilities, the Department is taking steps to lessen restrictions for vaccinated residents and expanded services to residents in these facilities,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “Our hope is that resuming these activities will help support the mental and physical well-being of residents.”
During visitation, if both the visitor and the resident are fully vaccinated, residents and their visitors may choose to have close contact including touching and removing their facemasks if they are alone in the resident’s room or the designated visitation room. Fully vaccinated residents may choose to have close contact including touching with their unvaccinated visitor, however they both must wear a well-fitting face mask.
The Department has also updated guidance on communal activities and dining for residents that are fully vaccinated. If all residents participating in the group activity or communal dining are fully vaccinated, they may participate without physical distancing and without wearing a mask during the activity.
The Department has required routine testing of residents and staff to prevent COVID-19 from entering and spreading within facilities. Under this updated directive, fully vaccinated staff are not required to be routinely tested, except that facilities may elect to continue routine testing of staff. Staff will need to undergo testing if there is an outbreak investigation at the facility or if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. The NJDOH urges staff and residents to get vaccinated by taking advantage of the current pharmacy partnerships delivering vaccines to nursing homes.
“Many workers in our long-term care facilities have chosen to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their families, their co-workers and the residents in their care,” said Andy Aronson, President NJ Health Care Association. “We commend Governor Murphy and Commissioner Persichilli for this move that rewards our vaccinated workers and will help encourage others to get vaccinated. We are committed to continuing education and outreach efforts to help educate our staffs about the benefits of being vaccinated.”
Non-essential personnel such as barbers and hair stylists are permitted to enter only if the personnel are screened before entry, and the facility has a protocol for services to be delivered safely, which must include infection prevention and control precautions, physical distancing, hand hygiene cleaning between clients and use of a well-fitting face mask. Staff testing requirements apply to these individuals.
“These are incredibly welcome changes and they reflect the reality that most residents of long-term care are fully vaccinated. Having the ability to participate in communal activities and meals with their peers is something that residents tell us that they have desperately missed,” said Laurie Facciarossa Brewer, the NJ Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “In addition, you cannot underestimate how important it is to residents of long-term care facilities to have access to hair dressers and barbers. Everyone wants to look their best. This is great news.”
The memorandum sent to facilities can be found here.