Republican New Jersey State Assembly members will join GOP State Senators in an investigation into Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic the day after the one-year anniversary of the first case in the state.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) announced in a joint statement the effort was being expanded to review what they have called a “flawed” response by the Murphy Administration to the historic public health crisis.
The independent hearings will examine Murphy’s coronavirus policies for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, issues with New Jersey’s unemployment system and the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission and the impact on small businesses.
Stall by Democrats
Kean said Senate Republicans “have repeatedly highlighted the need for legislative oversight” of the Murphy administration’s COVID-19 response but the Democratic Senate majority “has refused our many calls to act.”
In May 2020, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Kean announced the Senate would form a special Review and Recovery Committee, but an enabling resolution was never passed. Republicans in the upper chamber tried three times since then to force a vote on the bill, without success.
“We had no choice but to move forward with independent hearings,” Kean said. “We’re glad to have our Assembly Republican colleagues join us in an expanded effort.”
He added: “We remain hopeful that legislative Democrats will realize the importance of pursuing oversight in a bipartisan manner as we have requested.”
Public Right To Be Heard
The GOP investigation is being led by State Sens. Joe Pennacchio (R-26), Kristin Corrado (R-40), Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) and Michael Testa (R-1).
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-26) and Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (R-40) will serve as panelists during the first hearing, which is scheduled for March 5. Additional assembly participants will be announced over the coming days.
Bramnick said, “The public has an absolute right to be heard. People get frustrated because there is no transparency and they want the legislature to examine the failures of the administration.”
Long-term Care Hearings First
The first hearing, which will be held virtually, will examine the impact of Murphy’s executive orders as they relate to veterans homes, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where about 8,000 residents and staff members have died from COVID-19.
During proceedings, legislators will hear from family members of residents and caregivers who have been impacted by the crisis, along with advocates and experts.
Corrado, who will lead the hearing with Pennacchio, described the nursing home situation as a heartbreaking “tragedy that is still being written. Nobody seems to be listening to the family members of current residents who continue to raise concerns that their loved ones are still at risk.”
Over the past year, more than a dozen bills aimed at strengthening the state’s long-term care system against future outbreaks have been introduced, many of which incorporate recommendations from the Manatt Health report.
The state-commissioned review found nursing homes were unprepared to deal with the pandemic and presented a series of recommendations on how to improve long-term care in the Garden State.
New Jersey has already implemented several recommendations from the report, including the distribution of 30 million pieces of personal protective equipment, testing of 310,000 residents and 495,000 staffers and 450 infection control surveys.
As of March 3, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 710,046 with 2,957 total new PCR cases reported. There were 900 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 89,430. The total number of individual cases for the state is 799,476. Gov. Murphy previously noted there is some unknown overlap due to health officials urging those taking a rapid test to get a PCR test.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 63 new deaths, bringing that total to 21,052. The state listed probable deaths at 2,397, bringing the overall total to 23,449. State officials noted 20 deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on March 3, Bergen had a total of 387 new confirmed cases and 139 probable cases, Essex 316 new cases and 57 probable cases, Hudson 223 new cases and 72 probable cases, Morris 131 new cases and 64 probable cases, Passaic 268 new cases and 61 probable cases, Sussex 19 new cases and 16 probable cases, and Warren 33 cases and six probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,418, followed by Bergen at 2,343, Hudson with 1,835, Passaic at 1,526, Morris at 902, Sussex at 211 and Warren County at 198.
In regards to probable deaths reported March 3, Bergen has 284, Essex has 275, Morris has 224, Hudson has 185, Passaic has 179, Sussex has 64 and Warren has 22.
As for the rate of transmission, it increased to 0.99 from 0.97 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested as of Feb. 27, was 10.7%; by region, the rate was 11.4% in the North, 10.6% in the Central region and 8.9% in the South.
State health experts 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 1,921 patients were hospitalized; by region, there were 957 in the North, 587 in the Central and 377 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 403 are in intensive care units and 243 on ventilators. A total of 257 patients were discharged, while 266 were admitted.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 69,876, followed by Middlesex at 68,357, Essex at 68,182, Hudson at 64,376, Passaic at 52,628, Ocean at 52,608, Monmouth at 52,325, Union at 49,565, Camden at 39,736, Morris at 32,574, Burlington at 31,166, Mercer at 26,406, Gloucester at 21,241, Atlantic at 19,918, Somerset at 18,912, Cumberland at 12,257, Sussex at 8,050, Warren at 6,443, Hunterdon at 6,403, Salem at 4,271, and Cape May at 3,735.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 9,075, followed by Union at 7,877, Ocean at 6,892, Essex at 6,388, Hudson at 5,826, Monmouth at 5,483, Morris at 5,471, Atlantic at 5,174, Middlesex at 5,102, Passaic at 4,905, Camden at 4,791, Burlington at 4,549, Somerset at 4,231, Cape May at 3,588, Gloucester at 3,122, Cumberland at 2,150, Mercer at 1,670, Sussex at 1,202, Warren at 737, Hunterdon at 632, and Salem 459.
Another 1,107 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
In regards to cases related to in-school transmissions, a total of 160 outbreaks involving 765 cases, with eight new outbreaks accounting for 28 cases reported in the weekly update on March 2.
For North Jersey, Bergen County has 37 confirmed outbreaks with 155 cases, Passaic County has seven confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Sussex has six confirmed outbreaks with 15 cases, Warren has eight confirmed outbreaks with 20 cases, Morris County has four confirmed outbreaks with 32 cases, Hudson County has three confirmed outbreaks with 13 cases, and Essex County with one confirmed outbreak with 92 cases.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 323 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 12,529 of the cases, broken down between 6,195 residents and 6,334 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,267 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,263 residents and 21,048 staff, for a total of 53,311 cases.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 7,911 on March 2. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,823 residents deaths and 143 staff deaths.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 2,190,141 as of March 3. Of those who have received the vaccine, 1,448,799 residents have received their first dose with 740,492 their second; 53% have been administered the Moderna vaccine and 47% the Pfizer.
Demographically, 58% of those vaccinated are women and 42% men. As for ethnicity, 57% are White, 14% unknown, 13% other, 6% Asian, 6% Hispanic and 4% Black. In regards to age of those having received the vaccine, 42% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 23% are between the ages of 40-49, and 8% are between the ages of 18-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 248,273 doses, Essex 179,581 doses, Morris 164,567 doses, Hudson 102,612 doses, Passaic 97,907 doses, Sussex 34,319 doses, and Warren 22,249 doses.