Zoom call reveals Murphy administration warned about nursing home deaths, did nothing

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Senator Joe Pennacchio said a bombshell news report proves without a doubt that the Murphy administration was warned by nursing home administrators last year that an order forcing them to accept COVID-positive patients would result in outbreaks and deaths in their facilities.

Murphy administration officials refused to appear at an independent hearing on March 5 about their nursing and veterans home policies during the pandemic. Sen. Joe Pennacchio called for Trenton Democrats to stop blocking an investigative select committee with subpoena power to compel administration testimony following a bombshell new report. (NJ Senate Republicans/Facebook)

According to the story by Susan K. Livio and Ted Sherman on NJ.com, nursing home administrators participated in a March 31, 2020 conference call with New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli where they expressed their dire concerns about a new directive forcing their facilities to accept patients from hospitals and prohibiting those patients for being tested for COVID-19 prior to admission.

“Nursing home administrators were crystal clear when they told Commissioner Persichilli they couldn’t safely admit COVID-19 patients without putting their other residents at risk,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “They said COVID would spread through their facilities and people would die as a result of the dangerous order. Tragically, the Murphy administration ignored their prescient warnings and thousands of people died.”

According to NJ.com, one administrator told Persichilli and Health Department officials on the recorded call, “Patients will die. You understand that by asking us to take COVID patients, by demanding we take COVID patients, that patients will die in nursing homes that wouldn’t have otherwise died had we screened them out.”

Another, doubting the commissioner’s suggestion that COVID patients and caregivers could be effectively cohorted in separate units, told her, “You have asked us to separate safely and create our own wing and take in COVID-19’s from the hospital. The problem, of course, is there is no separating safely. It’s almost certain that even though you have staff only on that unit, something will migrate.”

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Pennacchio chaired an independent hearing last week on the impact of the Murphy administration’s policies and directives on nursing homes, veterans homes, and long-term care facilities.

Commissioner Persichilli and other members of the administration declined an invitation to attend the March 5 hearing or to answer the questions of legislators and family members.

“We need a select committee with subpoena power to compel Governor Murphy’s team to testify under oath since they won’t voluntarily appear before the Legislature to answer important questions,” added Pennacchio. “Families who lost loved ones deserve to know why the Murphy administration ignored all of the warnings. How much more evidence will Trenton Democrats need before they stop blocking this important investigation?”

Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked Pennacchio efforts to advance SR-68, a resolution creating a bipartisan select committee with subpoena power to review the Murphy Administration’s pandemic response efforts. Motions by Pennacchio to bring the resolution up for a vote were blocked by the Democratic majority on three separate occasions.