This article was updated with comment from the front office at 7:51 p.m.
Two Republican senators urged Gov. Phil Murphy to allow day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, many of which have remained shuttered under strict reopening guidelines released by the Division of Developmental Disabilities earlier this month.
“Congregate day programs provide critical services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, due to Governor Murphy’s inconsistent COVID-19 policies, these facilities have been unable to reopen,” said State Sen. Tony Bucco (R-Boonton). “This is in direct contrast to other neighboring states, such as New York, where adult day care facilities remain open.”
The guidance ties day program reopenings to New Jersey’s COVID-19 Activity Level Report (CALI). Facilities in regions with a high or very high CALI score must remained closed. Those in areas with a moderate CALI rating can choose to open at 50% capacity but must notify program participants of the increased risk of virus transmission.
Programs in low-risk areas can open but must still limit themselves to 50% capacity.
As of March 20, the end date of the most recent CALI report, all but three of the state’s 21 counties had a high COVID-19 activity level. Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland Counties reported moderate activity.
“I hear from families every day about the value of these community-based programs, and how they allow so many adults to live their lives as independently as possible,” State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) said. “By preventing these facilities from reopening, the Governor is effectively impeding the developmental progress of thousands of disabled New Jerseyans.”
“The Department of Human Services consulted with the Department of Health to follow CDC guidance in order for day programs to resume in-person services incrementally and safely,” Murphy deputy press secretary Christine Lee said. “The Administration will continue to monitor the situation to support individuals with disabilities and providers on their reopening plans.”
Bucco raised the issue in a letter to Murphy sent on March 29, the first day programs would be allowed to open.
The Republicans took issue with discrepancies between reopening guidelines for day programs and schools. Schools guidance recommends elementary schools remain open, with mask wearing and social distancing, up to a high-risk CALI score.
Middle and high schools can remain open amid high virus transmission risk, though under stricter social distancing guidelines than those imposed on elementary schools.
“As we all know, many schools in New Jersey have remained open for the last several months in some form for in-person instruction — even if those schools are located in counties with a ‘High’ CALI rating,” Corrado said. “There is no rational reason for why schools can remain open and congregate day programs cannot.”
COVID-19 poses a greater threat to older individuals than it does children.