The nation’s largest nursing home association is urging infection control policy changes in New Jersey as a means to prevent any further deadly viral outbreaks from occurring.

David Gifford, M.D., senior VP of quality and regulatory affairs for the American Health Care Association, testified at a state hearing Monday, urging officials there to move up the implementation date for the new infection preventionist training requirement, from November 2019 to April. The hearing was convened by a state senate committee to better understand the deaths of 11 children at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.

“While this tragic outbreak was due to adenovirus, we must take common sense steps to prevent other community viruses that typically cause flu-like symptoms from entering nursing homes,” Gifford said. “They can have severe consequences in residents of all ages who have many underlying health problems.”

Along with moving up the requirement as outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the new Requirements of Participation for Long Term Care Facilities, Gifford made several other recommendations. Those included encouraging workers to stay home when sick, covering their mouths when coughing, using alcohol-based hand gels, and making such gels readily available for visitors to prevent the spread of viruses.

AHCA officials are also offering to provide the association’s Infection Preventionist Specialized Training at no cost to SNFs caring for high-risk populations, such as those on ventilators or children, in New Jersey.

The hearing was scheduled in response to the deadly outbreak at the Wanaque Center, which started in September. Officials from the nursing home did not attend the fact-finding hearing NJ.com reported.

New Jersey legislators are pushing the state’s attorney general to investigate whether criminal negligence occurred at the facility, amid allegations that the center avoided sending sick children to the hospital for fear of losing Medicaid dollars. The facility’s administrator denied those allegations in a statement issued Friday.