New Jersey Announces State Preparation For H1N1
Governor Jon S. Corzine announced an aggressive initiative to prepare to handle any resurgence of H1NI influenza this fall. The Governor was joined by Health Commissioner Heather Howard, Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan, Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, Chairman and Physician in Chief, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, SDA CEO Kris Kolluri and Newark Schools Superintendent Dr. Clifford Janey.
"As you have heard the public health experts say before, H1N1 influenza is a cause for concern, but not a cause for alarm." the Governor stressed. "Prevention is the best medicine for ensuring that workplaces stay productive, schools stay open, and most important, that families are safe.
At my direction, the Department of Health and Senior Services and other agencies are taking action to ensure the State is prepared for any challenges that a resurgence of H1N1 influenza may bring this fall season."
The highlights of the Corzine Administration's plan include:
* Free vaccinations for the 1.3 million uninsured New Jerseyans at public health clinics in ever county throughout the State. For those insured, the vaccine will be covered by their provider.
* A public education campaign from the Department of Health and Senior Services encouraging hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and having both children and adults stay home for 24 hours after a fever subsides.
* Ongoing coordination with school districts around the state to monitor absences and implement practices to keep schools open.
* Working with school districts to establish a voluntary vaccination plan available at health clinics.
* Providing a ‘Find a Flu Shot' link on the Department of Health and Senior Services website (www.state.nj.us/health/) for consumers to find locations where vaccinations are available.
The Governor strongly encouraged New Jersey residents to get a seasonal flu shot and H1N1 flu shot when it is deemed safe and effective by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Information about the HIN1 vaccine will be posted on the Department of Health and Senior Services website when the vaccine becomes available.
State agencies have ramped up preparation and response efforts since the emergence of the novel flu strain last April. The Department of Health and Senior Services in conjunction with its H1N1 response partners conducted a multi-day Pandemic Influenza Response Summit this summer to prepare all partners to rapidly implement response operations throughout the State if necessary.
"I also know many families are concerned about H1N1 in schools and knowing this, we have taken measures to keep our schools are prepared," added the Governor. "Let me be clear, the goal is to keep schools open so healthy kids can learn and for sick kids to stay home. Let's keep our schools open and our kids healthy."
Last week, the Departments of Education and Health and Senior Services held a preparedness summit for county and local school officials to coordinate H1N1 planning, including guidance on school closures and the continuity of educational services and the Commission on Higher Education has worked to keep college officials updated on the state's H1N1 influenza preparedness efforts.
"DOE and DHSS have been working with school officials and local health officials for months to develop plans for strategies to slow the spread of the flu, the potential for high rates of absenteeism and the need for educational continuity programs should schools have to close for significant periods of time," said Commissioner Davy. "I have been impressed with the efforts demonstrated by school officials throughout the state, both last spring and in the months leading up to this new school year. They know they have a major role to play and they are committed to ensuring that should the need arise, plans can be carried out with as little disruption to community life as possible."
In addition, New Jersey was awarded $16 million from the federal government to strengthen the State's pandemic influenza planning initiatives by helping state and local health agencies and health care facilities with vaccination, surge capacity and continuity of operations.
"This is not the beginning of our preparedness efforts," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Heather Howard. "We have been preparing for nearly a decade. We have taken the lessons learned from the spring H1N1 influenza outbreak and we continue to refine our preparedness plans."