Sen. Bob Menendez reignited calls for a 9/11-style commission to study the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Never again must the United States of America be caught with its guard down in the face of a deadly and contagious virus,” said Menendez about an investigation whose purpose would be to develop a series of best practices and recommendations to improve readiness for future public health emergencies.
The push comes as New Jersey for the first time since July 30, 2020, did not report an in-hospital COVID-19 related death on June 25.
Meeting with healthcare workers and families of those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 at University Hospital in Newark on June 21, Menendez demanded bipartisan and bicameral legislation that he co-authored be voted on.
Calling the lack of movement on the bill a “national outrage,” Menendez argued the pandemic, which claimed 200 times the number of lives lost on 9/11, should garner broad support.
“We owe it to the families of the more than 600,000 people lost to COVID-19 to get answers—just as we did for the families of the nearly 3,000 Americans who perished on September 11, 2001,” said Sen. Menendez.
Looking for Answers
The commission would include a focus on the estimated 5.4 million Americans were contending with PTSD due to the loss of a loved one to COVID-19.
“We believe that a nonpartisan, independent, equitable, fully funded, comprehensive, and fair COVID commission must center the voices, experiences, and needs of the communities most gravely impacted by this virus—not only the bereaved but also frontline healthcare workers and COVID long haulers,” said COVID-19 Loss Support for Family & Friends founder Sabila Khan, who lost her father to COVID-19 and shared her story during the press conference.
“We must take a full and unvarnished look at what happened and why, so that we can understand how to make sure it never happens again,” she continued.
The National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021
Alongside Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Menendez introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2021.
The bill would establish a commission to investigate the pandemic response, which would focus on:
- the origins and initial spread of COVID-19;
- communication with foreign governments regarding public health threats, including early warning, detection, prevention and response;
- federal, state and local intergovernmental coordination;
- interagency communication and information sharing;
- vaccine development and distribution;
- public health surveillance and testing;
- availability of medical equipment and supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE);
- preparedness and response of hospital, nursing homes and other congregate settings;
- scientific research;
- economic relief policies;
- health and economic disparities affecting racial and ethnic minority populations and other communities that have been disproportionately harmed; and
- State, local, tribal, and territorial government preparedness and response.
The act was introduced after Menendez and Collins introduced the National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2020 in September 2020.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 9,535,641 in-state, plus an additional 567,769 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 10,103,410 as of June 25. Of those who have received the vaccine, 4,611,190 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 251,945 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 4,863,135.
Demographically, 54% of those vaccinated are women and 46% men. As for ethnicity, 51% are White, 15% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 8% unknown. In regards to the age of those having received the vaccine, 25% are 65 years old or olders, 27% are between the ages of 50-64, 29% are between the ages of 30-49, and 18% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,051,186 doses (511,146 fully vaccinated), Essex 795,765 doses (381,086), Hudson 693,017 doses (326,531), Morris 610,315 doses (295,619), Passaic 491,897 doses (235,212), Sussex 142,739 doses (69,940), and Warren 92,322 doses (45,104).
As of June 25, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 892,308 with 309 total new PCR cases reported. There were 83 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 130,135. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,022,443.
As for those that have passed, the state reported 12 new deaths, bringing that total to 23,730. The state listed probable deaths at 2,698, bringing the overall total to 26,428. State officials noted no deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that has not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on June 25, Bergen had a total of 24 new confirmed cases and six new probable case, Essex 35 new cases and four new probable cases, Hudson nine new cases and five new probable cases, Morris 15 new cases and seven new probable cases, Passaic 13 new cases and two new probable case, Sussex two new cases and one new probable case, and Warren had two new case and no new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,717, followed by Bergen at 2,587, Hudson with 2,085, Passaic at 1,734, Morris at 978, Sussex at 239, and Warren County at 211.
In regards to probable deaths reported June 23, Essex has 302, Bergen has 299, Morris has 261, Hudson has 216, Passaic has 200, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported June 25, it declined to 0.94 from 0.99 the day before. The daily rate of infections from those tested June 20 was 1.2%; by region, the rate was 1.2% in the North, 1.2% in the Central region and 1.1% in the South.
Officials reported 302 patients were hospitalized; 233 cases were confirmed and 72 are under investigation. By region, there were 156 in the North, 75 in the Central and 71 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 58 are in intensive care units and 28 on ventilators. A total of 61 patients were discharged, while 33 were admitted.
Officials have continually cited transmission rate, hospitalizations, intensive care units, ventilators 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.
Bergen Tops County Count
Bergen has the most confirmed cumulative cases in the state with 90,120, followed by Middlesex at 85,124, Essex at 84,893, Hudson at 79,036, Monmouth at 67,784, Ocean at 65,956, Passaic at 65,907, Union at 60,620, Camden at 49,136, Morris at 42,029, Burlington at 38,359, Mercer at 31,740, Gloucester at 26,644, Atlantic at 24,992, Somerset at 24,384, Cumberland at 14,929, Sussex at 11,755, Warren at 8,987, Hunterdon at 8,969, Salem at 5,573, and Cape May at 4,653.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,740, followed by Union at 11,103, Ocean at 10,402, Essex at 9,588, Hudson at 9,319, Morris at 8,321, Monmouth at 8,155, Middlesex at 7,542, Passaic at 7,444, Camden at 6,743, Atlantic at 6,649, Burlington at 6,001, Somerset at 5,827, Cape May at 4,629, Gloucester at 4,041, Mercer at 2,431, Sussex at 2,343, Cumberland at 2,289, Warren at 1,032, Hunterdon at 903, and Salem 537.
Another 718 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 30 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 643 of the cases, broken down between 246 residents and 397 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,481 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,837 residents and 22,252 staff, for a total of 55,089.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,062 on June 25. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,891 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.