(TRENTON) – With the goal of boosting New Jersey’s preparedness for future public health emergencies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bill to establish a process for the State to assess and approve personal protective equipment (PPE) and create two PPE stockpiles received final legislative approval on Monday, passing the full Assembly 70-0. The measure passed the Senate 40-0 in December and now goes to the Governor’s desk.
Under the bill (A-4803/A-4811), the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), in consultation with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and New Jersey Department of Health (DOH), would create a process to evaluate, provide feedback on and approve the production and supply of PPE made by businesses which typically do not produce PPE. The manufacturers would be reviewed to ensure their legitimacy and safety.
Additionally, the Director of the Division of Purchase and Property, in consultation with OEM, EDA and DOH, would award a contract for the procurement of PPE to create two stockpiles. One stockpile would consist of federally approved PPE, and the other would have OEM-approved PPE.
Each stockpile would be gradually filled to a capacity determined by OEM, EDA and DOH. At least one third of the capacity would be filled each year until the capacity is met. During public health emergencies, OEM would make the PPE stockpile available to the State and its political subdivisions, public and nonpublic schools, State hospitals and State nursing homes without charging a fee.
The measure’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic), Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex), Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Bill Spearman (D-Camden, Gloucester), and Andrew Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) released the following joint statement:
“A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of personal protective equipment continues to be a concern in New Jersey. Healthcare workers use masks, gloves, and other supplies to protect themselves and their patients when providing care. PPE shortages in hospitals and nursing homes can lead to devastating health outcomes.
“Immediate action to improve state and national manufacturing of critical supplies and equipment will help increase our preparedness in another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic or any other emergency. The best public health plan includes learning throughout a pandemic or other crisis and applying that knowledge to future practices to increase our readiness response.
“By creating a certification program for manufacturers to shift production purposes and establishing a sufficient State stockpile, we will ensure New Jersey is better prepared to respond to future threats to public health.”