Four Republican state senators want Senate President Steve Sweeney to launch a legislative investigation into the state’s handling of COVID-19 in long-term care centers.
Sens. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver), Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville), Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) and Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) on Monday urged Sweeney to begin holding legislative hearings to examine whether the death toll the virus has exacted on nursing homes and other retirement facilities could have been blunted.
“The state and nation were shocked when news reports broke of dozens of deaths at Andover Subacute, a long-term care facility in Sussex County,” Oroho said. “It’s increasingly apparent that the tragedy that occurred in Andover and at nursing and veterans homes across New Jersey didn’t need to happen.”
Though none of the four senators — all of whom save Pennacchio are Sweeneycans, or Republican lawmakers who have, at times, allied with the Senate President — specifically called for the drafting of a special or select committee on Tuesday, the Senate Republicans called for such a committee last week.
As of Tuesday morning, more than half, 5,408, of the coronavirus-related deaths reported in the state, 10,435, have come from long-term care facilities.
“When more than half of New Jersey’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred in our long-term care facilities, it’s clear that mistakes were made,” O’Scanlon said. “While we can’t change the past, we can ensure that the administration’s policies for preventing and responding to COVID-19 in our long-term care facilities accurately represent the current recommendations of public health experts going forward.”
Corrado suggested that the legislature should examine all parts of the state’s response to COVID-19 in the future but urged an investigation into the state’s actions in long-term care facilities.
“It’s clear that the Senate cannot delay a thorough investigation of the administration’s massive failure to protect our long-term care facilities,” Corrado said. “With infection rates and hospitalizations declining, we certainly hope that New Jersey is past the worst of COVID-19. Still, we must ensure that New Jersey’s long-term care facilities are prepared for the possibility of a second wave.”
In part, the Republicans are raising alarms over a lack of personal protective equipment and testing in the state’s long-term care centers early into the crisis.
But, those shortages were widespread in March and April, when the virus would have taken hold in those facilities, with the majority of the state’s supply being sent to hospitals already beleaguered by the outbreak.
“It’s shocking that the commissioner didn’t realize her order was tossing a match into dry grass,” Pennacchio said. “The wildfire of infection that burned through our long-term care facilities after her order was nothing less than devastating.”