Senator calls for ‘full investigation’ into Murphy’s 2020 nursing home COVID-19 death order

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Senator Joe Pennacchio said a $53 million settlement to the families of veterans home residents who died due to the tragic decisions of the Murphy administration demonstrates the need for a comprehensive investigation and legislative oversight hearings.

“New Jerseyans are once again paying for the mismanagement of the pandemic by the Murphy administration,” said Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26). “After 10,000 nursing and veterans home residents paid with their lives, millions of New Jersey taxpayers will be forced to pay with their wallets to settle claims of negligence and incompetence made against the administration. The settlement is yet another attempt by the Murphy administration to prevent a full and transparent investigation into the tragic decisions that led thousands of preventable deaths.”

According to published reports, the Murphy administration confirmed it will pay $52.9 million to settle claims with 119 families of veterans home residents whose deaths were attributed to the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic.

“A handful of the mourning families may be satisfied with a monetary settlement, but there are thousands more who would rather have answers,” said Pennacchio. “At every turn, however, the Murphy administration has resisted the efforts of grieving families, legislators, and the press to understand why so many of our frail and elderly veterans and nursing home residents died needlessly.”

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In May of 2020, Pennacchio exposed deadly orders issued by the Murphy administration that forced nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients from hospitals. The directives from the Department of Health prohibited long-term care facilities from testing patients for COVID-19 prior to admission.

To understand why those and other disastrous orders were issued, Pennacchio introduced a resolution that, if adopted, would convene an investigative “Senate Select Committee on the Executive Branch’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Senate Democrats blocked his efforts to bring the resolution, SR-68, up for a vote by the New Jersey Senate on five separate occasions over 19 months. Earlier this week, every single Democrat in the chamber voted to table Pennacchio’s latest attempt to call a vote on the resolution during a Senate session on December 20.

On December 6, Pennacchio voted remotely from the parking lot of the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home to highlight the Democrats’ continuing efforts to block the investigation with subpoena power he has been calling for.

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“Sadly, Democrats in the Legislature have been fully complicit in this cover-up,” said Pennacchio. “Democrats initially agreed to join us in a bipartisan investigation, but that quickly changed when the Murphy administration pressured them not to start digging. It’s disappointing Democrats showed none of the courage of the veterans whose deaths they refuse to investigate. I’ll keep pushing for a thorough, bipartisan investigation for as long as it takes.”

Pennacchio noted that Governor Murphy isn’t even in the country to answer questions as news of the multi-million-dollar settlement was shared with the press at the start of a holiday weekend when few people would be watching.

“Governor Murphy is on another vacation and families still don’t have the answers they deserve,” added Pennacchio. “One week he’s off to his luxury villa in Italy, now he’s jet-setting to Costa Rica. You know who isn’t going on vacation? The 10,000 American heroes he sentenced to death in our veterans and nursing homes.”

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