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January 07, 2022

New Jersey deploying National Guard to nursing homes with COVID-19 staffing shortages

Roughly 150 members will assist overburdened facilities with testing, screening and caring for residents

New Jersey nursing homes overwhelmed by the latest COVID-19 surge soon will get a boost from the state. 

About 150 New Jersey National Guard members will be deployed to more than 12 long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 staffing shortages, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

The guard members will be tasked with testing and screening nursing home staff, residents and visitors for COVID-19, as well as tending to the everyday needs of residents. Those tasks may include delivering meals and helping residents get around their facilities.

The National Guard members are undergoing training now, with work expected to commence Monday.

New Jersey first began deploying National Guard members to nursing homes in the early months of the public health crisis to support staff by performing non-clinical tasks.

"Time and time again, the New Jersey National Guard has stepped up to the plate throughout this pandemic," Murphy said. "This deployment will send members of our National Guard to long-term care facilities with staffing needs and will act to protect the health and safety of long-term care residents while the omicron variant surges throughout the nation." 

There are 503 active COVID-19 outbreaks and 13,107 cases in nursing homes across New Jersey. Overall, the state has recorded 2,291 outbreaks and 69,938 infections in long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly 8,800 nursing home residents and staff have died from COVID-19 complications, which accounts for 30% of New Jersey's death toll from the virus.

The state's long-term care facilities and hospitals are experiencing major staffing shortages caused by the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, state officials said earlier this week.

"The staffing challenges, to use a technical term, are bad," Murphy said. "It's bad in both hospitals and long-term care. There's just no other way around it."

State health officials have told nursing homes and hospitals that they should expect to be without at least 30% of their employees at any given time due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

New Jersey also is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy federal strike teams to hospitals. FEMA has medical personnel to overburdened Pennsylvania hospitals that are coping with staffing shortages. 

President Joe Biden's plan to address the omicron variant includes sending roughly 1,000 military doctors and nurses to hospitals.

New Jersey is experiencing high levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state recorded 33,218 new COVID-19 infections Thursday, and the seven-day daily average sits well above 30,000.

Nearly one-third of COVID-19 tests in New Jersey are returning positive results, and the statewide rate of transmission sits at 1.69. There are 5,261 patient hospitalized with COVID-19, including record-high hospitalizations in South Jersey.

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