State Officials Welcome COVID-19 Investigation from State Legislators

State officials said they would welcome any investigation into how the Murphy Administration handled the COVID-19 crisis, including actions surrounding long-term care facilities.

“The tragedy that happened at long-term care facilities will haunt us for a long time, but we will work to put things in place to prevent things like this from happening again,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he would cooperate with any investigation into what he described as “jaw dropping” actions of long-term care operators as well as his own administration’s response to it.  

Senate Investigation

The statement came during the daily COVID-19 briefing on May 14 after questioning about a letter from the 15 Republicans in the state Senate calling for a special committee to investigate how New Jersey has responded to the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare for any future health crisis.

In the letter, GOP senators wrote “We must acknowledge that the harm caused by the initial threat of the coronavirus may have been amplified by the response of the executive branch of our state government in certain cases, resulting in unnecessary physical and economic harm to New Jerseyans.”

Murphy said he has no problem with the role state legislators have played and will play when the COVID-19 crisis is over. The first-term Democratic governor even floated the idea of a national post-mortem level styled on the 9/11 Commission chair by former Gov. Tom Kean as well.

“It’s Been a Tragedy”

“The numbers don’t lie…it’s been a tragedy,” said Murphy, who noted the Department of Health is currently being audited by an outside firm to assess what should have been done and what can be done moving forward.

“I will reach out to anyone that will help us to determine the best way to go forward to make sure this never happens again,” said Persichilli. 

The commissioner said long-term care operators were not prepared but they were not alone.

“Did they have enough PPE’s? They did not, but nobody in America did and nobody in New Jersey did either. There was no stockpile in New Jersey and no stockpile in America,” said Persichilli. “We were just scrambling to get what we could. We did the best with what we had.”

Daily Numbers

Health officials noted 525 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 26,153 of the cases and 5,168 of the total deaths as of May 14. 

In a by-county breakdown, Bergen’s 63 facilities had 4,081 residents test positive with 857 total deaths, Essex’s 46 facilities had 2,586 residents test positive with 526 total deaths, Morris’s 41 facilities had 1,734 residents test positive with 411 total deaths, Passaic’s 25 facilities had 1,487 residents test positive with 306 total deaths, Hudson’s 15 facilities had 1,059 residents test positive with 164 total deaths, Warren’s seven facilities had 491 residents test positive with 96 total deaths and Sussex’s five facilities had 346 residents test positive with 102 total deaths. 

The cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 142,714 with 1,216 new cases and 244 new deaths, bringing that total to 9,946. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,496, followed by Bergen with 1,423, Hudson at 1,032, Passaic at 802, Morris at 539, Sussex at 137 and Warren with 115.

State Testing

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 9 has been in steady decline and currently rests at 22%.

Officials reported 3,958 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 171 new hospitalizations—while 366 patients were discharged. The north tier had 1,969 patients hospitalized, the central 1,210 and the south 779.

Officials broke down by tier the daily discharge and new hospitalizations. For May 14, the north reported 37 new hospitalizations and 164 discharges, the central 45 hospitalizations and 112 hospitalizations, and the south 89 hospitalizations and 90 discharges.   

Of those hospitalized,1,157 are in intensive care units and 898 on ventilators, the fifth day in a row the total was below 1,000. There are currently 35 patients in field hospitals, with 439 treated overall. 

Hudson Tops County Count

Husdon, with 17,134 cases, passed Bergen, with 17,080 cases, for the county with the most cumulative cases in the state. Third was Essex at 15,824, followed by Passaic at 14,887, Union at 14,385, Middlesex at 14,332, Ocean at 7,742, Monmouth at 7,164, Morris at 5,954, Mercer at 5,612, Camden at 5,172, Somerset at 4,159, Burlington at 3,782, Gloucester at 1,756, Atlantic at 1,649, Cumberland at 1,471, Warren at 1,069, Sussex at 1,046, Hunterdon at 764, Cape May at 483 and Salem at 438.

Another 802 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases in all 21 counties continue to trend up, although cases in the South are doubling at a faster pace than the rest of the state, according to Murphy. In North Jersey, it has taken more than 30 days to double in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Esex, Sussex, Passaic, Warren and Morris counties.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 54% White, 19% Black, 19% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 3% another race. For 40,309 hospitalizations that were tracked, the breakdown was 36% White, 20% Black, 18% Hispanic, 5% Asian and 11% another race. 

Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state and vowed that any plan to reopen the state will work to reduce racial inequities in healthcare. The governor recently signed legislation mandating hospitals report age, gender, ethnicity and race of people who have tested COVID-19 positive or died from the virus.

In regards to the underlying disease of those who have passed, 59% had cardiovascular disease, 43% diabetes, 32% other chronic diseases, 17% neurological conditions, 15% chronic renal disease, 10% cancer and 14% other. Persichilli has stated most cases have multiple underlying conditions which would push the percentage of 100%.

A census of ages for 7,223 confirmed deaths shows 43% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 35% in the range of 65-80, 15% between 50-65 and 5% under the age of 49. 

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