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Senator Joe Pennacchio Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26)
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Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600
May 13, 2020
Pennacchio Asks Commissioner for Clarification of Nursing Home Deaths Related to COVID-19

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Letter Seeks Explanation of Details from Conference Call with Legislators and Hospital Officials

In a letter to health department Commissioner Persichilli, Senator Joe Pennacchio asked if nursing home residents who pass away in hospitals are counted as deaths in long-term facilities, or hospital deaths.

Sen. Pennacchio is seeking clarification from health commissioner Persichilli regarding the state’s policy for classifying COVID-19 deaths related to long-term care facilities. (Flickr)

“The logic escapes me,” said Pennacchio. “More than half the COVID-19 deaths in the state are nursing home patients. The actual number could be higher, but this statistical loophole may be obscuring the extent of the crisis within our senior facilities.”

In his letter, Pennacchio noted that legislators on a conference call were told that COVID-infected nursing home residents who are hospitalized and die are not classified as virus deaths in long-term facilities, but rather hospital deaths. The Senator wrote to the Commissioner seeking clarification on of the statement.

“This kind of information can skew our understanding of the severity of the COVID-19 threat to the public,” Pennacchio noted. “I look forward to clarification from Commissioner Persichilli and a thorough explanation of her department’s procedures for classifying and quantifying COVID fatalities.”

Pennacchio, in his letter, noted that while the long-term care facility deaths displayed on New Jersey’s COVID-19 dashboard indicate that approximately half of all COVID-19 deaths in the state are related to the infection of LTC residents.

“If what we were told on the conference call is accurate, deaths related to LTC-acquired infections may be higher than 50 percent,” Pennacchio said, “and the risk of death posed by COVID-19 to the general public actually may be lower.

“It’s unbelievable that it took 5,000 deaths in our long-term care facilities and weeks since the outbreaks were identified before the administration finally saw fit to take action on testing residents and staffs,” concluded the Senator.

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