Murphy, Persichilli Look to Set Record Straight on Long-Term Care Facilities Actions

State officials defended their actions as criticisms intensified in recent days on the way New Jersey handled the outbreak of the coronavirus in long-term care facilities.

At the daily briefing May 21, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli laid out the timeline of 18 guidance and actions the department undertook with long-term care facilities beginning March 4.

Petrichilli said she wanted to clear up any inconsistencies in the record as “we are dealing with something that we have never dealt with before.”

Timeline Highlights

Among the notable dates highlighted were guidance sent out restricting visitations at long-term care facilities on March 14, all protocols being aligned with the state of Washington as of March 25, and the need for facilities to cohort those returning from hospitals who were COVID-19 positive on March 30.

The timeline comes as GOP legislators calling for an investigation begin to amplify, with all 15 state Senators calling for a Senate Select Committee to investigate New Jersey’s response to long-term care facilities.  

Additionally, an investigation by NJ.com pointed to major missteps and negligence by the state based on internal department records, statements by officials and interviews with those involved in decisions behind the scenes. According to the investigation, more than a dozen public health experts, industry officials, family members and advocates believed New Jersey failed to react fast enough or take forceful, aggressive actions to slow the virus in nursing homes.

Fact Setting

Murphy stated the timeline laid out by Persichilli was not a defense but more to “set the record straight.” 

“I look at it as making sure everyone knows what the facts are,” said Murphy. “Judy was unequivocal that we could not mingle positive patients with the general population, unequivocal about (personal protection equipment) requirements.”

Murphy took aim at the operators, saying there was an “extraordinarily uneven performance.”

“Are there good apples? You bectha there are,” he stated. “But there are others who just did not get the job done.”

Early day Actions

The first-term Democratic governor noted in the early days of the outbreak, his thoughts and the state’s actions were focused on where symptomatic patients were going.

“The people who got sick were going to hospitals, that is where we were trying to save their lives with ventilators and ICU beds,” said Murphy. 

“We are doing everything we can to do better…to figure out (actions) if this happens again,” said the governor, highlighting New Jersey being the only state to hire an outside firm to look at both past actions and future practices to adopt.

Daily Data

As of May 21, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 151,472 with 1,304 new cases and 98 new deaths, bringing that total to 10,943. 

Of the total deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,576, followed by Bergen with 1,508, Hudson at 1,121, Passaic at 864, Morris at 583, Sussex at 140 and Warren with 123.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of May 17 rests at 18%. The state is no longer using serology tests as of May 18 as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. By region, the north tested at 17%, the central at 19% and the south 17%.

Officials reported 3,208 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus—which included 143 new hospitalizations—while 286 patients were discharged. The north tier had 1,649 patients hospitalized, the central 988 and the south 671.

Officials broke down by tier the daily discharges and new hospitalizations. For May 20, the north reported 76 new hospitalizations and 126 discharges, the central 20 hospitalizations and 86 discharges, and the south 47 hospitalizations and 74 discharges.   

Of those hospitalized, 896 are in intensive care units—below 1,000 for the third day in a row— and 700 on ventilators. There are currently 46 patients in field hospitals, with 458 treated overall. 

Hudson Tops County Count

Hudson has the most cumulative cases in the state with 17,814 followed by Bergen at 17,583, Essex at 16,906, Passaic at 15,497, Union at 15,176, Middlesex at 15,057, Ocean at 8,214, Monmouth at 7,637, Mercer at 6,205, Morris at 6,155, Camden at 5,818, Somerset at 4,390, Burlington at 4,097, Gloucester at 2,002, Atlantic at 1,895, Cumberland at 1,869, Warren at 1,111, Sussex at 1,071, Hunterdon at 925, Cape May at 534 and Salem at 484.

Another 1,026 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

The amount of days it takes for a county to double its cases is past a month for all but two of the 21 counties in the state.

State officials are tracking cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children, which in a majority of cases has lead to a positive COVID-19 test. As of May 21, 19 cases were reported for children ranging in age from 1-18. Of the 19, 14 have tested positive for COVID-19. Six are currently hospitalized. No death have been reported from the disease.

Demographic Breakdown

The racial breakdown of the record deaths was 53% White, 19% Black, 19% Hispanic, 6% Asian and 3% another race. Murphy has noted the rates in the black and Hispanic communities are running about 50% more than their population in the state. 

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 9,941 confirmed deaths shows 47% of deaths are of those 80 year old and up, 33% in the range of 65-80, 16% between 50-65 and 4% under the age of 49. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 530 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 28,876 of the cases, broken down between 19,847 residents and 9,029 staff. The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, which was 4,502 on May 21. The facilities are reporting to the state of 5,456 residents deaths and 98 staff deaths. 

In a by-county breakdown:  

Bergen County 

  • 63  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 2915 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 1347 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 880  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 10  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Essex County 

  • 46  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1936 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 799 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 526  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 19  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Morris County 

  • 42  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1162 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 556 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 431  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 3  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Passaic County 

  • 25  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 1000 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 572 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 311  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 13  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Hudson County 

  • 15  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 696 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 374 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 163  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 6  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Warren County 

  • 7  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 400 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 102 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 103  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 1  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

Sussex County 

  • 5  Facilities with Outbreaks
  • 242 Total Resident Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 117 Total Staff Cases at Long Term Care Facilities 
  • 100  Resident Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities
  • 4  Staff Deaths reported by Long Term Care Facilities

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