New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli held a conference call Monday for more than 400 longterm care facility leaders to outline important preparedness steps 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 longterm 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.”
The Department issued guidance last week to longterm care facilities on COVID-19.
Facilities should also continue to monitor 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 carefully review existing emergency preparedness and outbreak response plans.
Facilities should also ensure healthcare personnel infection prevention competency-based training and do an assessment to ensure they are skilled in prevention control. Healthcare personnel who come in close contact with individuals with confirmed or possible COVID-19 should wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Staff should be trained on how to properly use PPE and conduct an inventory of PPE supplies.
Longterm 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.
There are more than 350 nursing homes in New Jersey.
A 24/7 hotline is being operated by the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), also known as the New Jersey Poison Center. The hotline is staffed with trained healthcare professionals and available in multiple languages. Call 1-800-222-1222 within NJ. If your cell phone is a non-NJ area code or you are calling from outside the state, call 1-800-962-1253.
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