Democrat joins efforts to investigate COVID deaths in NJ nursing homes

TRENTON — Push in the state Senate for a special committee to investigate deaths in New Jersey nursing homes during the pandemic is now bipartisan.

Senator Nia Gill, D-Essex, introduced A resolution On Thursday, that would establish a committee of inquiry into the response to the pandemic in nursing homes. It would be made up of seven members and would examine the effects of state actions, executive orders, legislation and state policies on nursing homes, residents and their families.

“The only way to ensure the public gets the answers they deserve is to have this committee in the Legislative Assembly,” Gill said. “We need to have a full report on how our care system has failed older people and their families and how we can improve those systems in the future.

The resolution is similar to one advocated since 2020 by Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris, who is now also a main sponsor of Gill’s proposal.

“It’s encouraging to see bipartisan support for an investigation,” Pennacchio said. “Without an official forum, it is obvious that New Jerseyans will never learn the truth about what happened in nursing homes and what could have been done to prevent tragedies and save lives.”

The state Department of Health reports that there have been 9,142 lab-confirmed COVID-related cases in long-term care facilities among residents and staff since the start of the pandemic. A separate tally from a self-reporting survey by facilities shows 8,464 residents and 149 staff deaths.

Many deaths occurred in the first days of the emergence of the virus. Critics say that’s because state policy required that infected patients discharged from hospitals be returned to nursing homes, but the state says its directive required those residents to be housed separately.

Michael Symons is the State House Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at [email protected].

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