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Senate GOP urges DOJ to expand long-term care probe

By Nikita Biryukov, September 03 2020 2:27 pm

Every member of the State Senate Minority Caucus urged federal authorities to expand their probe into the handling of the COVID-19 crisis in the state’s long-term care facilities Thursday.

“It is our hope that an investigation by your office would yield answers to some of the pressing questions that have been ignored by the Governor and his top health officials,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The families who lost loved ones in veterans and nursing homes are frustrated because they want to know what went wrong, and many thousands of vulnerable seniors remain at risk in future outbreaks.”

Last week, the Department of Justice announced it was probing whether a March executive order that required long-term care facilities to readmit patients who had contracted COVID-19 and sequester those who had not yet recovered.

Republicans have long taken aim at the governor over the order, which they claim is at least partly responsible for the 7,109 virus-related deaths among residents and staff at such facilities.

Some Democrats have worried the inquiry and others launched at New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan were politically motivated, but NJ Spotlight on Thursday reported the inquiry into New Jersey’s long-term care facilities would be limited, covering as little as 3% of such facilities in the state.

New Jersey’s Republicans want federal authorities to do more.

“We are asking you to consider expanding the examination to a full investigation and utilize all the tools at your disposal to uncover the policies and failures that led to this avoidable tragedy so we can prevent a recurrence,” they said in the letter.

Republican lawmakers have, for months, called for a select committee with subpoena power to investigate the administration’s handling of the virus in long-term care centers, but Democratic leaders in the legislature have not indicated any support for such a move, though Gov. Phil Murphy has said more than once that the state would conduct a post mortem on most parts of its virus response.

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