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State Sen. Vin Gopal. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Veterans Affairs chair Gopal lauds new state Covid requirements

By Joey Fox, August 03 2021 11:42 am

State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Long Branch), the chair of the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, announced on Tuesday that he supports Gov. Phil Murphy’s new vaccination and testing requirements for employees of health care and congregate living facilities.

The requirements, which Murphy unveiled at a press briefing yesterday, mandates that all workers in such facilities will either need to show proof of vaccination or get a minimum of one Covid test per week beginning September 7.

“The state-run veterans homes were among some of the hardest facilities hit in the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Gopal said. “This mandate to either have state health care employees get vaccinated or be tested every two weeks means we can give some assurance to our veterans and other community members that they are safe, and their health will continue to be a priority in this state.”

Several of the state’s veterans’ homes were horrifically impacted by Covid in 2020, with at least 102 residents of the Veterans Memorial Home in Menlo Park dying of the virus, and at least 89 deaths at another facility in Paramus. The catastrophes have been subject to a statewide grand jury investigation, and Murphy announced the appointment of new CEOs at both devastated facilities in March.

Criticism over deaths in veterans’ homes led to the forced resignation of Major Gen. Jemal Beale as New Jersey Adjutant General and Commissioner of Military and Veterans Affairs last October.

Covid-related nursing home deaths – more than 8,000 since March 2020 – have emerged as a major issue in Murphy’s bid for re-election.

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