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Senator Joe Pennacchio Senator Joe Pennacchio (R-26)
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Contact: Robbie Kenney / (609) 847-3600
November 20, 2020
Pennacchio: Without Oversight, the Administration and the Legislature Own the Current COVID Situation in Nursing Homes

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Just as they did in the spring, COVID outbreaks are now running unchecked through nursing homes in New Jersey, and Senator Joe Pennacchio today said both the Governor’s Administration and the Legislature share culpability for failing to act expediently.

As COVID levels continue to spike in nursing homes in the state, Senator Pennacchio said the Governor and Legislature must do more to protect elderly residents. (Pixabay)

A newspaper report published this week cited an increase of close to 50 percent in COVID outbreaks at nursing homes, and reported almost 80 new hot spots in just 20 days.

“This is exactly what we were trying to prevent in the spring when we started calling for – pleading for – a Senate Select Committee to investigate the Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, and especially in our veterans and nursing homes,” said Senator Joe Pennacchio. “Utilizing subpoena power to compel witness testimony, we could have discovered which policies failed so changes could be made to ensure the same disastrous mistakes would not be repeated.

“Now here we are six months later, and the state is still punching with a blindfold on. The results so far suggest not much has changed,” Pennacchio continued.

“Almost half of New Jersey’s 14,847 confirmed pandemic victims were nursing home residents, the vast majority of whom died in the spring,” reporter Scott Fallon wrote in The Record this week.

As the virus level has spiked again inside long-term care facilities, the only visible action has been the health commissioner discouraging families from bringing their loved one’s home for the holidays.

“It must feel like Groundhog Day for nursing home residents, their families and caregivers, but this isn’t a comedy, it’s a horror movie,” said Pennacchio. “The Governor had time to address this, this Legislature had time to address this, but what has changed? Seniors are still being held hostage in homes while the virus spreads out of control.”

Pennacchio noted that the nursing home news follows the Administration’s high-profile release of thousands of prisoners with the intention of protecting them from the virus.

“The Administration continues to demonstrate more concern for prisoners than for veterans and senior citizens who have entrusted their health and security to nursing homes across the state,” said Pennacchio. “More than 7,100 people died from COVID in veterans and long-term-care facilities in the spring and summer. It appears the Administration has failed to learn from its mistakes.”

Pennacchio called for a Senate Select Oversight Committee to investigate the Administration’s handling of the COVID crisis in April, and in May, with fatalities mounting in nursing homes, Senate Republicans wrote a letter to Senate leadership requesting creation of the panel.

“The state needs an unbiased investigation into what happened in nursing homes and the COVID policies the Governor enacted by executive orders,” said Pennacchio. “The public has the right to know what’s really going on.”

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