How prepared is NJ for a public health emergency?
New Jersey is more ready to handle a worst-case scenario than most other states, according to a preparedness report from Trust for America's Health.
"Ready or Not: Protecting the Public's Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism" puts the Garden State and 16 others in the top tier of three, based on their performance in 10 indicators of state public health preparedness.
"We are looking for proven approaches to emergency preparedness that should be in place in every state," said TFAH President John Auerbach. "We refer to this as an all-hazards approach."
Among the highlights, New Jersey received credit for an uptick in state public health funding, and the fact that 57 percent of the state's hospitals received an "A" safety grade — that's the highest percentage in the country. New Jersey is also one of 26 states accredited by both the Public Health Accreditation Board and the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
And, falling in line with national numbers, 96 percent of New Jerseyans who get water from a community system have access to water that has met all safety standards.
The report noted that in 2018, just 52 percent of New Jersey residents received paid time off. The state is likely to earn more credit in this area on the report's next release in 2020, as a state law that took effect in October grants workers — even part-timers — one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked.
"There is solid evidence that if people don't have paid sick time they will come to work even when they have an infectious disease," Auerbach said. "In different states that's led to infectious disease outbreaks."
Considered a crucial tool to effectively manage disasters or disease outbreaks, a nurse licensure compact is currently running for more than 30 states, and New Jersey is not one of them. The compact allows states to recognize out-of-state nursing licenses.
Committees in both houses of the New Jersey Legislature have advanced measures this year that would enter New Jersey into the compact.
Rhode Island was found to be the only state with an influenza vaccination rate above 50 percent during the 2017-2018 season. New Jersey's rate was recorded at 48.1 percent; it was as low as 35.3 percent in Louisiana and Wyoming.
According to the report, all states have made progress in preparedness since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.