TRENTON – Long-term care facilities can use antigen testing and expand indoor visitation under an amended Executive Directive released today by the New Jersey Department of Health.
Antigen testing is now a permissible alternative to molecular diagnostic tests in helping facilities to fulfill their weekly testing requirements for staff as well as asymptomatic individuals at the facility’s discretion. Facilities that have antigen testing available are also encouraged to use it as part of their visitor screening process. Visitors who test positive will not be admitted into the facility. Only antigen tests that have received an emergency use authorization or approval from the Food and Drug Administration can be used.
Under the updated visitation section, indoor visitation by appointment is permitted in every phase subject to the requirements in the directive. All facilities with no new onset of COVID cases in the last 14 days and that are not conducting outbreak testing may allow indoor visitation, provided they meet other criteria as outlined in the directive. The updated directive brings New Jersey in line with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines.
“This amended directive provides a balance in enabling expanded visitation by loved ones and continuing to do so in a way that keeps residents and visitors safe,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “We know COVID-19 remains in communities, and we have to maintain our vigilance to ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place for these vulnerable residents.”
Currently, 162 long-term care facilities in New Jersey are experiencing outbreaks.
The visits include certain precautions such as screening, social distancing, masking and meeting other infection control guidelines. Facilities are required to log all visitors and receive informed consent from residents and visitors that they are aware of the potential exposure of COVID-19. All facilities that perform COVID-19 point of care tests (such as antigen tests) in their facilities must possess a federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) Certificate. Additional information and application instructions for a CLIA Certificate can be found at https://www.nj.gov/health/phel/clinical-lab-imp-services/federal_clia.shtml.
Previously, facilities could only allow non-compassionate care indoor visitations if the facility had never had an outbreak or had no new probable or confirmed coronavirus cases identified through two COVID-19 incubation periods (28 days), in addition to other minimum criteria.
Additional information on interpreting antigen test results in long-term care facilities is available at: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/COVID-19_Antigen_Testing_in_LTCF.pdf
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