Jersey Dems Say Murphy’s Nursing Body Count is “Learning Experience”, Reject Call for Investigation

6 mins read

TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Democrats, many who refuse to join a bi-partisan effort to hold Governor Phil Murphy accountable for potentially thousands of nursing home deaths during the pandemic today said the tragic loss of life is simply a learning experience.

Senate President Nicholas Scutari and Senator Joe Vitale, both Democrats acknowledge the losses in light of a March 2020 order by New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, signed by Governor Phil Murphy that ordered nursing homes to take COVID-19 positive patients back into their facilities.

It is estimated that thousands may have died needlessly as a result of that order and the incident is still under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice under the administration of President Joe Biden.

“As we grapple with the terrible toll COVID-19 has taken on our state, we continue to look for answers that will help us emerge from the public health crisis better prepared for any future threat,” the Democrat duo said. “Over two years after New Jersey saw its first case, we often look back on the early days of the pandemic in frustration and awe, realizing just how much damage was done, how much suffering was endured and how much was lost.”

They said there are lessons to be learned that should teach us how to be better prepared and, most importantly, how to better protect our residents.

“This is especially true for our most vulnerable residents, including those in nursing homes and veterans’ homes,” they said. “Sadly, none experienced greater consequence than our long-term care facilities, where the Menlo Park and Paramus veterans’ homes reported some of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the country.”

The pair stopped short of laying blame on the Murphy administration, especially after they sat quietly for more than a year after that order was given by the administration.’

“Even though we were still in the midst of the health crisis, the Legislature took action to investigate and identify the reasons behind the devastating events in the nursing homes and veterans’ facilities. In August of 2020 the Senate and Assembly held a joint hearing to address nursing home quality and accountability,” the pair said, instead charging the operators of the facilities for the death. “After the hearing, we called for the resignation of the Adjutant General and the replacement of the administrators at the state veterans’ homes in Paramus and Menlo Park. In the fall, they were replaced. Leadership and accountability are important when it comes to the health and safety of residents and workers in these facilities.”

Democrats have held complete legislative power through the pandemic and refused to implement checks and balances during Governor Murphy’s two-year-long pandemic power grab, solidly ignoring multiple calls for bi-partisan action and investigations by State Republicans.

“We produced a separate package of reform bills specifically aimed at better protecting veterans in the state’s care. The eight bills increase communications with family members, create safeguards to ensure administrators have proper qualifications and provide greater oversight and accountability,” Scutari said.

The Democrats have blamed the ongoing DOJ investigation as the reason they do not want to pursue further state investigations.

“However, given the two ongoing investigations by the federal Department of Justice and the State Attorney General, now is not the time to conduct additional legislative hearings. The DOJ and the AG have far more resources at their disposal and we are confident in their ability to determine exactly who is responsible and what went wrong,” the Democrats said, however at the national level, the Democrat party in the Senate and Congress routinely conduct investigations on top of other federal and Department of Justice investigations, such as the January 6th commission.

“We look forward to reviewing the findings from their investigations. Further, we are open to holding hearings as appropriate after the release of the findings to help us determine next steps and hear from stakeholders on how to best implement the recommendations,” they said, knowing a federal probe can take years, if not decades to conclude.

“We are not closing the door on this issue — far from it — but rather we understand the role we have to play here in the legislature and we will do it in a responsible way,” they said as 2022 is an important election year for Democrats in New Jersey at the federal level. “We will not allow our veterans, senior citizens and other long-term care residents to be abandoned or neglected.”

Not until after the 2022 midterms, at least.