Bill seeks to ensure nursing home COVID-19 data remains online
TRENTON — State lawmakers are moving to ensure transparency isn’t rolled back around the toll COVID-19 has exacted on long-term care facilities, advancing a bill requiring data about deaths and cases to be published online continuously until a year after the health emergency ends.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, said the online data would help people with loved ones in long-term care evaluate emerging health concerns and allow health officials and legislators to rapidly respond to facilities facing emergencies.
“As a state, we are unfortunately continuing to battle a second spike and wave, unfortunately just as deadly as the first wave. Transparency obviously is essential to fully understanding the scope of this crisis,” Vainieri Huttle said.
“This legislation will be critical in ensuring that families receive up to date information regarding their loved ones and also including an up-to-date assessment of risk factors in long-term care – especially, I want to note, that veterans’ homes are included with this,” she said.
A version of the data is published online by the Department of Health already, though some of it hasn’t appeared uninterrupted.
Statewide totals of outbreaks, cases and deaths among long-term care residents and staff are updated on weekdays. Facility-level data is provided for locations with an active outbreak three times a week. A separate list of facility-level data for locations where outbreaks have ended is updated once a week.
As of Wednesday, there have been more than 7,600 deaths of residents and staff in long-term care facilities that lab tests have confirmed to be COVID-related, including 7,522 residents and 126 staff.
There have been 1,190 outbreaks in long-term care facilities dating back to March, including 454 currently active. There have been more than 31,000 cases among residents, with nearly 6,600 of those active, and more than 20,000 cases among staff, with nearly 7,200 of those currently active.
The bill originated at a time last fall when the state began to limit its reporting only to facilities with an active outbreak, removing details about many nursing homes from the report. After concerns were raised, it began publishing the separate report about facilities with concluded outbreaks.
The Senate passed a companion bill in December, so the bill could get to Murphy’s desk next month.