As the COVID-19 health crisis continues, a new plan is being formulated to protect New Jersey's most vulnerable population.

According to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, 188 of New Jersey’s 375 long-term care facilities now have a least one novel coronavirus case, and that number is growing larger every day.

Some of these facilities no longer have sufficient resources and staff to take care of their patients.

Persichilli said Tuesday that a "whole-of-government approach" will develop a plan to assist nursing homes with the outbreak.

“It will require in some cases for patients to be moved around and that’s extremely disturbing to elderly individuals,” said Persichilli.

“For those that have not been exposed, we want to keep them safe. And for those that have been exposed or perhaps diagnosed positively, we want to make sure that they get cared for.”

She said to be able to effectively shift patients around facilities, an algorithm is being developed to identify their conditions, including “asymptomatic, no exposure, asymptomatic exposure, symptomatic but test negative, symptomatic and test positive.”

She said after patients have been assigned a classification, “we’ll identify the most appropriate location for the resident to be in and within the locations there will be all infection control precautions taken.”

That means patients and caretakers will be assigned to stay in one particular area of a long-term care facility.

“We have found staff going from facility to facility and within facilities have caused some of the problems that we’re seeing.”

No timetable for completion of the patient protection plan was announced.

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