TOMS RIVER, NJ – Senator Joe Pennacchio, appalled and frustrated by the loss of life in New Jersey and New York, had a message for Governors Murphy and Cuomo. “You own this, governors. The death and illness, the lack of protective equipment, ineffective leadership and non-existent state intervention – it all rests at your feet,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “If you are going to point fingers, point at yourselves first.”
Pennacchio said it was obvious early on that senior facilities were at high-risk concerns for COVID-19 outbreaks. In late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published details of the deadly coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home in the Seattle suburbs. The article, or March 27, stated the spread in the Washington facility produced a “very rapid spread, despite early adoption of infection prevention and control measures.”
The report was produced by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which NJ.com columnist Paul Mulshine referred to as “what you might call the bible of the public-health establishment – assuming the bible were to be updated every seven days based on the best research available.”
Less than 48 hours later, according to the column, “the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Medicine, which certifies specialists in the field, put out a press release based on that MMWR article.” The March 29 release criticized New York State for ordering nursing home directors not to “deny re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
“Based on what we currently know … this action by a state will put the many frail and older adults who reside in nursing homes at risk,” the press release stated.
That didn’t deter Murphy at all, and days later, on March 31, New Jersey would follow suite, issuing the same, dangerously flawed directive to facilities in this state.
“Top health experts were emphasizing that nursing homes were at the greatest risk, and should have been kept clear of virus contaminants. Inexplicably, New Jersey followed New York’s lead and both states drove off the cliff,” Pennacchio said.
“The timeline is damning,” said the Senator. “We had all these warnings. The situation in Seattle was unfolding, and the virus was hitting the elderly population hard in Italy, where the average ago of death was 81. The Administration here overlooked all the red flags.”
The morbid predictions proved prophetic, and almost 12,000 nursing home deaths in two states have been attributed to confirmed or presumed COVID-19 infections.
“In New Jersey, 1 out of every 13 residents in nursing homes have died since the outbreak. We have lost 6,000 vulnerable souls in New Jersey and almost as many have died in our neighbor to the north,” said Pennacchio.
Pennacchio has called for initiating a Senate Select Committee with subpoena power to investigate the Administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“The lingering question remains: Why were the CDC’s very specific warnings ignored? To prevent a tragedy of this level from repeating during another pandemic or a second wave of COVID, it is crucial to get the answer.”