Gottheimer, Pascrell Applaud State Investigation of Coronavirus Response at Veteran Homes

Two leading North Jersey Congressman expressed their support of New Jersey’s Attorney General probe into the dozens of deaths in state veterans and nursing home facilities.

The Attorney General’s Office has asked the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which operates the Paramus and Menlo Park homes, to hand over reams of documents related to 50 categories, according to a report in The Record. The document’s requests range from the organization and management of the homes to their infection-control procedures, staffing, inspection records and COVID-19-related issues.

Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell, who have pushed for an look into the actions of long-term care facilities since April when they called for an investigation of how conditions at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus (NJVHP) resulted in the deaths of resident and staff members, said they were encouraged that State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is looking for answers.

“Complete Disgrace”

“The tragedies that occurred in New Jersey’s state-run veterans homes are a complete disgrace for our veterans and families, which is why those in charge of the facilities need to be held fully accountable and ensure we are prepared for flu season,” said Rep. Gottheimer in a press statement. “In April, we demanded that both the State of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigate the outbreaks that had taken place. Here we are five months later and the families of those who lost their lives are still waiting for answers and accountability.”

“The deaths of so many of our veterans and seniors will long remain one of the greatest tragedies of this pandemic,” added Rep. Pascrell. “It is so painful because many of these losses could have been prevented, if not for the negligence and opaqueness of these facilities and a failed national strategy to take this virus seriously.”

Accountability Needed

Pascrell, newly installed as the chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight committee, said accountability for what happened is a critical ingredient to making sure these crimes do not happen again.

“The explosion of COVID-19 demanded transparency, honesty, cooperation, and competency and the people in charge at Paramus Veterans Home and elsewhere provided none of these,” said Pascrell. “The leaders at Paramus failed and so bear responsibility for many of the dead. All of these families deserve not just answers, but justice, and we are hopeful that this inquiry will give them some of that justice.”

Federal Oversight

Gottheimer noted that the congressman are actively working on increasing federal oversight of state-run veterans homes going forward as they demanded the resignation of the Paramus Veterans Home’s CEO and asked the State legislature to fully investigate the failures

“We now need the New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs to finally take full responsibility for the failure to contain the virus,” said the two-term congressman. “The State must come clean to families of our nation’s heroes and the American public.”

Daily Data

As of Oct. 4, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey reached 208,202 with 1,594 new cases and five new deaths were reported over the weekend, bringing that total to 14,349. The state probable death is 1,787, bringing the overall total to 16,131.

State officials noted 11 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.  

Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 1,8900, followed by Bergen at 1,805, Hudson with 1,359, Passaic at 1,115, Morris at 686, Sussex at 161 and Warren with 158.

In regards to probable deaths, Bergen has 241, Essex has 229, Hudson has 160, Morris at 144, Passaic at 141, Sussex has 36 and Warren has 13.

State Testing 

The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Sept. 28 was 2.5%. By region, the North has a rate of 2.1%, Central at 2.9% and the South at 2.6%. The state is no longer using serology tests as health officials explained those results show a past presence of the disease as well as a current one. 

As for the rate of transmission, rising to 1.26 from 1.19 just two days before. Officials have continually cited transmission rate and positivity rate as health data they rely on to track how the coronavirus is being contained in New Jersey, guiding them in determining when restrictions have to be tightened or lifted.

Officials reported 480 patients are hospitalized; by region, there were 206 in the North, 133 in the Central and 141 in the South.

Of those hospitalized, 107 are in intensive care units and 32 on ventilators, while 52 patients were discharged.

Bergen Tops County Count

Bergen has the most cumulative cases in the state with 22,734, followed by Essex at 21,330, Hudson at 20,897, Middlesex at 19,904, Passaic at 19,237, Union at 17,870, Ocean at 14,244, Monmouth at 12,224, Camden at 10,124, Mercer at 8,721, Morris at 7,986, Burlington at 7,306, Somerset at 5,907, Gloucester at 4,787, Atlantic at 4,223, Cumberland at 3,813, Sussex at 1,538, Warren at 1,458, Hunterdon at 1,388, Salem at 1,090 and Cape May at 1,047.

Another 374 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.

In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 11 outbreaks involving 43 cases have been reported in seven of the 21 counties in the Garden State. For North Jersey, Bergen County has one confirmed outbreak with three cases, Passaic County has one confirmed outbreak with nine cases, and Sussex County has one confirmed outbreak with two cases. 

Long-term Care Facilities

Health officials noted 155 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 6,217 of the cases, broken down between 3,822 residents and 2,395 staff. 

Cumulatively, 730 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 25,170 residents and 13,655 staff, for a total of 38,825 cases. 

The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,165 on Oct. 2. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,789 residents deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

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