June 21, 2020
Starting Sunday, outdoor visitation can take place at long-term care facilities across New Jersey.
The directive, which was issued alongside a set of safety protocols by the state Department of Health, applies to dementia care homes, pediatric transitional care homes, nursing homes, assisted living residences and programs, and comprehensive personal care homes.
Visits can take place in designated outdoor spaces, but only two visitors are allowed at a time. The visitors and the resident must stay six feet apart to practice social distancing. Additionally, visitors and residents must wear face coverings.
A staff member from the long-term care facility must remain with the resident during the visit and wear a face covering. Any resident who is suspected or confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 or quarantined for an exposure to the virus cannot have visitors.
However, a resident who has tested positive for coronavirus can have guests after he or she has met the criteria to end isolation.
Guests must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms—including a temperature check—upon arrival, and facilities must follow safety and infection prevention guidelines for visits to occur.
They must also submit documentation to the state at least 24 hours in advance before having guests. Such documentation must confirm that they have implemented health and safety protocols, a designated location for visits, sufficient staff and PPE, and a method for scheduling visits.
Facilities are required to communicate the visitation policy to all guests, residents, and staff, as well as receive informed consent from both the resident and visitors that he or she will comply with the health guidelines during the visit.
Any guest must notify the facility if he or she tests positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms within 14 days of visiting.
The complete directive and guidance issued by the Department of Health can be viewed here.
“Being apart from our loved ones has been one of the most difficult challenges throughout the pandemic—especially for long-term care residents and their families,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “This directive outlines the measures that must be in place to reduce risk to this vulnerable population while allowing visits outdoors.”
“Virtual communication could never replace gathering face to face gatherings with loved ones. We hope these outdoor visitations bring joy and comfort to residents as well as their loved ones—while also protecting them.”
The permission for visitors at long-term care facilities across the state comes in the wake of nursing homes being severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 550 facilities across the state have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. Almost 36,000 positive coronavirus cases and at least 6,180 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 have occurred among residents and staff at such facilities. However, there may be as many as 6,500 fatalities due to the virus from long-term care facilities.
Those numbers account for over 21% of the 169,142 confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey and anywhere from 48-50% of the statewide death toll of 12,870 due to COVID-19.