State Sen. Joe Pennacchio continues to push for an examination of the decisions state officials made at long-term care facilities in the early days of the pandemic.
The latest issue is a New York State report recently released by the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care that linked Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive for nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients increased deaths among residents. Pennacchio wants a similar investigation launched in New Jersey of Gov. Phil Murphy.
“For the 10,000 residents who died in New Jersey nursing homes and their families, life will never be ‘normal’ again,” commented Pennacchio (R-26) in a recent press statement. “How was it decided to lock elderly patients inside buildings where the virus was running wild? Who was advising the (Murphy) Administration, and what were they saying?”
“New Jersey needs to know these answers.”
Push For Hearings
Pennacchio has pressed since May 2020 for an investigation by a bipartisan State Senate Committee. Unable to get any agreement from Democrats, the North Jersey lawmaker chaired a hearing with other Republicans in an attempt to get a better picture of why decisions were made by the Murphy Administration in March 2021.
“The budget is signed, the pandemic appears to be winding down, and life is returning to normal,” said Pennacchio. “There needs to be some accountability for the ill-fated decisions that placed so many lives in jeopardy.”
The State Senator noted New York releasing a report is a proper example of what New Jersey should be doing as “from the earliest days of the pandemic, it became obvious that Governor Murphy was following in the footsteps of his colleague to the north.”
New York Model
“What happened in New York happened in New Jersey, too. And the results were the same: The unnecessary loss of thousands of vulnerable senior citizens,” said Pennacchio.
Pennacchio argued the Murphy Administration had been advised by top nursing home officials that requiring facilities to accept COVID-positive patients could be disastrous.
“During an acrimonious conference call with the health commissioner, a nursing home administrator stated emphatically, ‘Patients will die!’ The words are haunting in retrospect, but why were they ignored?” asked Pennacchio. “Why did the Governor and his team seem to have more confidence in Cuomo than they did in those working inside nursing homes? Why did they refuse to lift the directive even as bodies began to pile up and the conditions in veterans and nursing homes deteriorated?”
Murphy Push Back
Murphy and New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have strongly pushed back on the narrative put forth by Republicans about the nursing home guidance, reiterating on numerous occasions that operators were told to isolate patients that were returned to the nursing homes that they lived in and if they could not accommodate those returning, to ask the state for help.
The back-and-forth between GOP lawmakers and the Murphy administration is why Pennacchio has repeatedly called for an investigation into the handling of the pandemic, especially relative to long-term care facilities.
“The Democrats in Trenton have been running interference for the Governor, shielding the Administration from scrutiny and accountability,” Pennacchio said. “Political loyalty has become the obstacle preventing the public from hearing what really happened during the pandemic.”
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in New Jersey totaled 10,139,953 in-state, plus an additional 355,649 administered out-of-state for a grand total of 10,495,602 as of July 12. Of those who have received the vaccine, 4,960,435 received their second dose or the one jab Johnson & Johnson dose in state and another 153,259 out of state, bringing those fully vaccinated to 5,113,694.
Demographically, 53% of those vaccinated are women and 47% men. As for ethnicity, 49% are White, 15% Hispanic, 11% Asian, 7% Black, 9% other and 9% 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 19% are between the ages of 12-29.
In North Jersey, Bergen County has delivered 1,154,491 doses (567,820 fully vaccinated), Essex 853,202 doses (413,538), Hudson 780,206 doses (374,186), Morris 636,939 doses (311,352), Passaic 528,137 doses (256,361), Sussex 148,377 doses (73,532), and Warren 95,639 doses (47,101).
As of July 12, the cumulative number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Jersey was 895,552 with 227 total new PCR cases reported. There were 65 probable cases, bringing the cumulative total of antigen tests to 130,734. The total number of individual cases for the state is 1,026,286.
As for those that have passed, the state reported four confirmed deaths, bringing that total to 23,800. The state listed probable deaths at 2,709, bringing the overall total to 26,509. State officials noted two deaths occurred in the last 24 hours of reporting that have not yet been lab confirmed.
For North Jersey counties on July 12, Bergen had a total of 17 new confirmed cases and eight new probable cases, Essex 36 new cases and five new probable case, Hudson 23 new cases and nine new probable cases, Morris 17 new confirmed cases and six new probable cases, Passaic nine new cases and one new probable case, Sussex one new case and no new probable cases, and Warren had two new cases and no new probable cases.
Of the total confirmed deaths in North Jersey, Essex County has the most with 2,727, followed by Bergen at 2,590, Hudson with 2,089, Passaic at 1,740, Morris at 980, Sussex at 239, and Warren County at 212.
In regards to probable deaths reported July 7, Essex has 302, Bergen has 302, Morris has 261, Hudson has 218, Passaic has 201, Sussex has 68 and Warren has 26.
As for the rate of transmission reported July 12, it increased to 0.95 from 0.86 three days earlier. The daily rate of infections from those tested July 8 was 1.7%; by region, the rate was 1.5% in the North, 1.7% in the Central region and 2.5% in the South.
Officials reported 312 patients were hospitalized; 294 cases were confirmed and 63 are under investigation. By region, there were 151 in the North, 90 in the Central and 71 in the South.
Of those hospitalized, 58 are in intensive care units and 26 on ventilators. A total of 28 patients were discharged, while the same amount 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 90,473, followed by Middlesex at 85,323, Essex at 85,114, Hudson at 79,198, Monmouth at 68,299, Ocean at 66,322, Passaic at 66,105, Union at 60,800, Camden at 49,342, Morris at 42,152, Burlington at 38,505, Mercer at 31,800, Gloucester at 26,721, Atlantic at 25,076, Somerset at 24,499, Cumberland at 14,978, Sussex at 11,794, Warren at 9,033, Hunterdon at 9,026, Salem at 5,587, and Cape May at 4,671.
In regards to probable cases, Bergen had the most at 14,776, followed by Union at 11,170, Ocean at 10,478, Essex at 9,573, Hudson at 9,379, Morris at 8,366, Monmouth at 8,252, Middlesex at 7,523, Passaic at 7,467, Camden at 6,805, Atlantic at 6,665, Burlington at 6,042, Somerset at 5,846, Cape May at 4,646, Gloucester at 4,064, Mercer at 2,449, Sussex at 2,365, Cumberland at 2,290, Warren at 1,033, Hunterdon at 904, and Salem 543.
Another 734 cases are still under investigation to determine where the person resides.
Long-term Care Facilities
Health officials noted 15 long-term care facilities are currently reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for a total of 65 of the cases, broken down between 33 residents and 32 staff.
Cumulatively, 1,490 long-term care facilities reported a case infecting 32,797 residents and 22,233 staff, for a total of 55,030.
The state’s official death total will now be reported as those that are lab confirmed, sits at 8,063 on July 12. The facilities are reporting to the state 7,878 residents deaths and 144 staff deaths.