NJ COVID: Don't take your loved ones out of nursing homes for Thanksgiving, officials plead
Gov. Murphy made the announcement as cases of the coronavirus hits new levels. NorthJersey.com
New Jersey health officials are making a public plea with families whose loved ones live in nursing homes: Please do not take them home for Thanksgiving and the December holidays.
The plea comes as the number of COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes has increased 47% in less than three weeks, Health Department data shows.
Indoor holiday gatherings could transmit the virus to loved ones, and those loved ones could then pass it on to other residents of a nursing home when they return, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said.
"We are still concerned about the number of outbreaks we are seeing in long-term care, so we need to be especially vigilant to protect this population," Persichilli said at a briefing Monday.
After a lull during the summer, nursing homes across the state have seen almost 80 more outbreaks, from 164 on Oct. 26 to 241 on Monday.
Almost half of New Jersey's 14,847 confirmed pandemic victims were nursing home residents, the vast majority of whom died in the spring.
Dr. Christina Tan, the state epidemiologist, said 24 new outbreaks were reported in New Jersey nursing homes on Monday alone.
"Unfortunately, every day we are seeing more long-term care facilities with more active outbreaks," she said at the briefing.
To help make sure the virus doesn't spread at nursing homes, Health Department officials issued guidance to operators Monday that sets up new 14-day quarantine restrictions for returning residents.
Residents would have to be isolated upon return. If a private room is not available, a resident cannot return until one is available or until the facility is otherwise able to isolate a group of returning residents in a separate area.
The number of residents allowed to visit families will be limited based on the nursing homes' ability to isolate returning residents. A reservation system and waiting list will have to be established under the guidelines. Residents who leave without a reservation may not be guaranteed readmission to the facility until a bed is available.
Families have to certify that they will wear masks, socially distance and wash hands often while their loved one is with them.
"Bringing your loved one home could put them at risk," Persichilli said.
New Jersey saw hospitalizations statewide rise to 2,115 Monday, with 406 requiring intensive care, the highest levels for each category since early June. Patients requiring ventilators rose to 142, more than any other day since July 7.
The rise of NJ nursing home outbreaks:
- Oct. 19: 156
- Oct. 26: 164
- Oct. 28: 166
- Nov. 5: 191
- Nov. 9: 200
- Nov. 16: 241
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.