Gov. Phil Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy

Assisted living and memory care communities, as well as comprehensive personal care homes, residential healthcare facilities and nursing homes licensed in New Jersey, will be required to submit outbreak response plans for review by the state Department of Health under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

The legislation follows a 2018 outbreak of adenovirus that killed 11 children living at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Wanaque, NJ.

“I am proud to sign legislation today requiring long-term care facilities to have outbreak plans in place to reduce the chances of a similar tragedy from ever happening again,” Murphy said in a statement.

The law became effective immediately and requires the long-term care facilities to develop outbreak response plans within 180 days. The plans must include protocols for isolating infected and at-risk patients / residents in the case of an outbreak, policies for notifying family and staff members, and additional requirements for containing outbreaks. Facilities such as the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, which are licensed to care for ventilator-dependent residents, must submit more detailed response plans.

Assemblymembers Herb Conaway Jr., Christopher P. Tully and Lisa Swain, as well as state Sens. Joseph Vitale and Troy Singleton, were the primary sponsors of the legislation.

“While outbreaks such as the one at the Wanaque facility are largely preventable through hand-washing and other infection control practices, there is still a risk that outbreaks can occur, particularly at long-term care facilities,” the Assembly bill sponsors said in a joint statement. “This new law gives the public peace of mind that their loved ones in long-term care facilities are being cared for by people who are prepared to respond as quickly and appropriately as possible in the event of this type of health emergency.”