With the increased quantity and urgency of laboratory testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway and Robert Karabinchak sponsor legislation that would provide protections for health care professionals testing for the virus in laboratory settings. The Assembly Health Committee advanced the bill on Tuesday.
Similar to a previous bill providing legal immunity to health care workers administering medical care related to COVID-19, this new legislation (A-4251) would provide immunity to workers providing diagnostic, laboratory or testing services in support of the State’s COVID-19 response.
Labs throughout the state have been processing specimens from hundreds of COVID-19 testing sites to confirm if residents currently have the virus or may have previously had it at some point in the past few months.
“This pandemic bombarded health care professionals with work as they dealt with case after case of COVID-19 while it rapidly spread through our state,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “Especially during our peak, these professionals had to work overtime in order to keep up with the growing number of residents contracting a novel virus we were learning about in real-time. The same immunity afforded to medical care providers must apply to the people who administered and processed thousands of diagnostic tests per day to help our state understand how many cases we had.”
The immunity offered under the bill would not apply to criminal, fraudulent or reckless acts nor any acts that were committed with malice, gross negligence or willful misconduct.
“The people working in our laboratories were, and still are, a crucial part of New Jersey’s COVID-19 response efforts,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “Data on who is sick and how many people are infected with a virus helps determine hospital capacity, rate of spread and other key data points that influence both State policy and the care residents receive. Honest mistakes made in the process of acquiring this information during a turbulent time should not be punished.”
The bill will now head to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.