O’Scanlon: Murphy Department of Health Needs to Stop Ignoring County & Local Health Departments

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FREEHOLD, NJ – Senator Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (both R-Monmouth) commented on a highly concerning letter from the Public Health Associations Collaborative Effort (PHACE) which expressed their major concerns over the lack of coordination between the New Jersey Department of Health and local health officials on the pandemic response.

Sen. Declan O’Scanlon and Asw. Serena DiMaso commented on a highly concerning letter which expressed major concerns over the lack of coordination between the NJ Department of Health and local health officials on pandemic response. (©iStock)“This is yet another deafening warning siren blaring at the Department that something is horribly wrong,” said O’Scanlon. “It is staggering that the NJDOH would not consult with such esteemed institutions and not tap into our State’s vast and established network of local health experts that truly understand the needs of our individual communities.”

PHACE represents all six local public health organizations in New Jersey and represents hundreds of years of collective experience.

“This is the single greatest public health disaster our country has seen in 100 years,” DiMaso stated. “Not properly gauging our ability to respond, utilizing all our existing resources, and seemingly ignoring the concerns and calls for communication from local health departments surely has cost many lives and countless dollars.”

There are merits and difficulties associated with the implantation of a contact tracing program for COVID-19, which is more than 80% asymptomatic. Further, contact tracing has the potential to be incredibly invasive if not done appropriately.

“It’s well known that a good contact tracing program would need to really understand the cultural and localized nuances of those that would be interviewed. New Jersey is one of the most diverse states in the country with some of the most diverse cities. To not coordinate with NJACCHO and their tremendous network of public health officials is careless and smacks of arrogance,” said O’Scanlon

“Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our organizations is imperative to good governance and leadership. When local health officials weigh in on a public health emergency it is critical that we listen to them and give them a seat at the table,” DiMaso continued. “Engaging stakeholders, being transparent and keeping open lines of communication with those stakeholders is of the utmost importance. The Governor and his team apparently do not comprehend this.”

“The Governor has repeatedly stated that he believes we can restore economic health through public health. Considering our complete and total lack of coordination with our vast, accessible network of qualified public health experts and officials, it is no wonder why our current fiscal situation is getting direr by the day. The Governor would be wise to immediately rectify the lack of communication and begin to finally fill the many vacancies over at the Department,” O’Scanlon concluded.