NEW JERSEY — On Father’s Day, months of isolation will end for many of New Jersey’s 70,000 residents relegated indoors at long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Friday that such visits must be held outdoors and follow a set of safeguards necessary in light of the devastating impact the virus has had on such facilities. 

“We know that it has been a long, hard three months for residents and families,” Persichilli said at the state’s daily COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton. “But we know we must be thoughtful and careful."

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The lift on suspensions will impact visits to New Jersey nursing homes, assisted living residences, dementia care homes, pediatric transitional care homes and comprehensive personal care homes. 

All 678 long-term care facilities in the Garden State were prohibited from allowing visits starting March 14 — making today’s announcement welcome news for many families who’ve only been able to communicate with relatives or friends from afar. 

Case totals statewide jumped by 516 today (total of 168,496) with an additional 37 deaths (total of 12,835).

Gov. Phil Murphy said that next week the state expects to add a new set of deaths and cases, which until now have been suspected to be linked to COVID-19 but not confirmed. In addition, hospitalizations now stand at 1,177 (61 new and 108 discharges since Thursday), 286 patients are in critical or intensive care, and 231 are on ventilators. 

Of the total, there have been 116 new positive coronavirus cases and 22 deaths confirmed out of long-term care facilities, upping the totals to 35,600 cases and 6,152 deaths. 

Persichilli said that while LCF can begin scheduling appointments Friday, visitations cannot begin until Sunday. 

“The department will issue a full directive today outlining the measures that must be in place to reduce the risk to this vulnerable population while allowing visits outdoors," she said. 

Facilities will be required to submit attestations to the department of health vowing to have implemented the required directives for outdoors visits, as well as have the proper PPE and staff in place.

A consent form must be drawn up, wherein visitors agree to give notification to facilities if they test positive for COVID-19 or display symptoms within two weeks of the visit a minimum of 24 hours before they come in.

“Virtual communication can never replace a face-to-face [gathering]," the state health commissioner added. "If you or the loved one you visited need emotional support as a result of difficulties related to the pandemic…there are resources available to help."

Counselors on a toll-free NJ hotline are available at 1-866-202-4357.

Some protocols that will be in place at facilities are as follows:

  • A staff member wearing a surgical mask must remain with the resident during the visit 
  • Residents who are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, or have been quarantined for COVID-19 exposure cannot have visitors 
  • Resident who has tested positive is allowed visitation after they have met the criteria for discontinuation of their isolation 
  • There will only be two visitors permitted at a time and the visitors must remain at least six feet away from the resident
  • Both visitors and residents must wear face coverings
  • A designated area should be established for visitors to be screened, that maintains social distancing and infection control standards 
  • If an individual has any COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be permitted, to visit with the resident
  • Visitors are not allowed beyond the reception area of the facilities and restrooms will not be available to them
  • When staff are transporting the residents outdoors, they cannot be moved through any space where there are either positive or suspected COVID patients 
  • A safe distance of 6-feet must be maintained between residents and staff at all times
  • Long term care holders should communicate the visitor policy with residents, family staff and others, and they should receive informed consent from the resident and the visitor in writing that they are aware of the possible risks of COVID-19 exposure and that they will comply with the facility's policies during the visit

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