As part of the Assembly’s ongoing efforts to improve New Jersey’s veterans’ homes in order to help keep residents safe, a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Carter, Cleopatra Tucker and Valerie Vainieri Huttle would mandate weekly reporting on the status of these facilities in the event of a public health emergency.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 200 residents died from COVID-19 in the state’s veterans homes. Aiming to prevent a similar loss of life in the event of any future viral outbreaks, the Legislature has worked to introduce and advance legislation to improve facility operations.
Under the bill (A-5849), the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) would be required to send weekly reports to the Commissioner of the Department of Health (DOH) during a public health emergency.
The report would include information on the number of residents and staff in each home, any significant health risks they face, and the amount of personal protective equipment available to them in addition to information on any changes in operating procedures due to the public health emergency.
The measure also specifies that weekly reports must also be sent following the effective date of the act through December 31, 2021 – in recognition of the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey.
Upon the bill unanimously passing the Assembly on Thursday, Assembly sponsors Linda Carter (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) issued the following joint statement:
“Over the past year, we have spoken with family members, staff, and other individuals involved in our state veterans’ homes to gain a better understanding of how we can prevent the tragic loss of life that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic from ever happening again.
“One of the key takeaways was the importance of timely and transparent communication. If state officials are left in the dark about how our veterans’ homes are handling a crisis, they cannot provide assistance to help manage and mitigate its effects.
“Requiring weekly reports on the status of these facilities during a public health emergency would ensure the Department of Health receives the information it needs to help save the lives of our veterans in the event of any future emergencies.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.