TRENTON, NJ -- Gov. Phil Murphy provided guidance related to holiday gatherings during his COVID-19 press briefing in Trenton on Monday.

"This will not be a normal Thanksgiving," Murphy said. "We know indoor gatherings in homes are particularly dangerous places for COVID1-9 to spread We’re urging everyone to keep their plans as small as possible."

Holiday preparations at long-term care facilities  

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State epidemiologist Dr. Christina Tan confirmed 24 new COVID-19 outbreaks at New Jersey nursing homes on Monday alone. There currently 241 active outbreaks across the state.

“The department strongly recommends against families taking residents out of [long-term care] facilities for holiday celebrations or gatherings,”State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “Individuals at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid gatherings with individuals that they don't live with."

The health commissioner said while outdoor visits are one option, the facilities should plan to accommodate residents with “virtual communications” during the holidays. The New Jersey Department of Health will release guidance later on Monday for nursing homes to prepare and protect the vulnerable population.

She previewed some health protocols and suggestions during her portion of the press conference:

  • Residents that leave the facilities for family celebrations must be quarantined on their return
  • If a resident lives in a private residence or room, the resident may be quarantined there
  • If the resident has a roommate, the resident should be quarantined in a separate observation room for 14 days
  • If an observation room is not available in the facility, the facility must notify the rest of the family that the resident will not be permitted back until the room is available or until the facility is otherwise able to separate returning residents in compliance with current CDC and Department of Health guidance and directives
  • Long-term care facilities need to develop a plan for holiday visits
  • As part of that preparation, they need to estimate how many residents can be separated for a 14-day quarantine period, based on their current census and their projected census from Nov. 25 through to Dec. 31
  • Facilities should create a reservation process for residents to want to leave and visit families for the holidays
  • Reservations should be tied to the number of individuals the facility can quarantine on their return
  • Reservations and any changes to reservations must be confirmed 36 hours before the resident leaves the facility
  • Facilities should create a waiting list for residents who request a reservation after the established limit has been reached and residents and families should be informed of the possibility that if a resident leaves without a reservation or on the waiting list, that may not be guaranteed readmission to the facility until the bed is available
  • Residents and families must certify that they are aware of the dangers of exposure to COVID-19 

Besides following face mask, social distancing and hand hygiene rules, Persichilli said if families learn of positive COVID-19 test results or someone with coronavirus-like symptoms, they must notify the facility. 

The governor’s coronavirus briefings will return to three days a week, with his next virtual briefing set for Wednesday at 1 p.m.