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Senate Minority Whip Joseph Pennacchio (R-Montville). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Pennacchio renews call for COVID select committee

GOP Senator wants state’s handling of long-term care centers investigated

By Nikita Biryukov, June 02 2020 10:00 am

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) renewed his call for the creation of a Senate select committee to investigate the state’s handling of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that have seen thousands of deaths during the pandemic.

“We have more questions than answers, and this report is proof positive that we need to act now before more lives are lost,” Pennacchio said Tuesday. “I, and many others, have voiced concerns with the functionality of the health department. It’s becoming obvious problems within the department have contributed to, or directly led to, thousands of deaths.”

On Monday, New Jersey Advance Media reported on the existence of a letter sent by health department officials who called the state’s handling of long-term care centers during the crisis “an unmitigated failure.”

Residents in those facilities account for 4,952 of the 11,721 COVID-19-related deaths reported in New Jersey as of Tuesday morning.

“I, and many others, have been sounding the alarm that poor judgement and flawed determinations within the state hierarchy could be costing lives,” Pennacchio said. “The death toll continues to rise, and the public is losing confidence in the department.”

The letter was sent anonymously, and Murphy’s administration declined to comment on the allegations.

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