(TRENTON) – In response to the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities, especially in nursing homes, Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, issued the following statement on bill she is proposing to require long term care facilities to designate space for appropriate storage of deceased individuals:
“Yesterday, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli confirmed what we have already known; COVID-19 has spread quickly throughout the nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in our state. This is not a New Jersey issue. This is an emergency that all affected states and nations will have to come to terms with.
“Presently, Commissioner Persichilli reports that there are 10,500 positive COVID-19 cases at 450 of our long-term care facilities, which is a majority of the long-term care facilities in New Jersey.
“In the midst of this crisis, families have enough to worry about as concerns mount of their loved ones potentially contracting this highly contagious virus. In the unfortunate event that loved ones die due to COVID-19, we must ensure that the proper safeguards are in place for all deceased individuals to be treated with respect.
“As a funeral director, I believe that the manner in which we care for our loved ones who have passed is an expression of our empathy and deference to the living and the dead.
“The situation in Andover and other facilities never should have happened, but I also believe that without a proper response it can happen again. No facility is immune to this type of disaster.
“It is for this reason that I will be introducing legislation which mandates that all long-term care facilities set aside space and refrigeration for the proper and respectful storage of deceased individuals.
“While I certainly hope that the outbreak of COVID-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance, we must do everything in our power to ensure that we are prepared for any future public health disaster. I believe that this legislation will be an important first step in protecting the dignity of our residents, especially our most vulnerable in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”