Three of New Jersey’s federal lawmakers introduced a bill that would reinstate infection control and emergency preparedness regulations in long-term care centers hammered by the pandemic Thursday.
“COVID-19 has been devastating, particularly for seniors and those living in nursing or long-term care facilities where the death toll has been an astounding over one-third of all lives lost to the pandemic in New Jersey,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-North Bergen) said. “It is critical that long-term care facilities are prepared to deal with infectious disease outbreaks within their walls and have programs in place to protect residents during emergencies.”
The bill, dubbed the Promoting Restoration of Emergency Preparedness and Advancing Response to Epidemics in Long-Term Care Act — or more succinctly, the PREPARE LTC Act — would require long-term care facilities to create and maintain infection prevention programs and plans to protect residents during emergencies.
It also bars the U.S. health and human services secretary from waiving staff reporting and inspection protocols during a pandemic.
“Ensuring the safety of our seniors and caregivers in nursing homes is absolutely essential,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair). “But the last administration rolled back critical infection control measures that could have helped protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. While nursing facility residents are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, the Trump administration’s actions allowed long-standing issues to proliferate in nursing facilities, exacerbating the situation for our nation’s seniors”
The Trump administration in 2019 proposed a federal rules change that would have allowed long-term-care centers to employ consultants to manage infection control, doing away with a requirement for on-site staff.
Nursing homes and other long-term care centers have been site to disproportionate deaths from the virus. Of the nearly 451,000 virus deaths in the country to date, more than 136,000 came from within long-term care centers.
In New Jersey 7,788 long-term care residents and staff have died after contracting COVID-19. That’s more than a third of the state’s 19,606 confirmed virus deaths.
“The impact of COVID-19 on our nation has been devastating. The impact of the virus on our nursing homes has been cataclysmic,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) said. “The misery wrought on our seniors was exacerbated by the Trump regime repealing important regulations which caused years of unnecessary and unconscionable deregulation across the industry.”