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New Jersey lawmakers to hold hearings on coronavirus devastation in state's nursing homes

New Jersey lawmakers to hold hearings on coronavirus devastation in state's nursing homes
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A committee of New Jersey’s state legislature will hold hearings on coronavirus deaths in long-term care (LTC) facilities, which have seen more than 5,000 deaths during the pandemic as of Wednesday.

“There is no question that this disease inherently poses a greater threat to the elderly and the sick,” said State Sen. Joe Vitale (D), chair of the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, according to Politico. “But the devastating reports coming out of these communities begs a number of questions that the families with members in these facilities deserve to have addressed in public.”

Vitale’s committee will likely invite state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson to testify, as well as representatives of long-term care facilities, and retired Army Brig. Gen. Mark Piterski, the former deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, according to Politico.

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Vitale said later Wednesday that he would delay the senate’s probe until consultants hired by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) complete their own recommendations for addressing the spread of the virus in such facilities.

Meanwhile, all 15 Republican members of the state Senate signed a letter to Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) calling for an investigation into the Murphy administration’s handling of the pandemic in long-term care facilities.

“Nursing homes and their staff warned that most [long-term care facilities] didn’t have the protective equipment needed to care for sick residents,” they wrote. “It’s unfathomable that the administration would prevent patients entering LTCs from being tested at the same time the governor was calling for broad statewide testing.”

The letter also claims nursing homes were required to accept patients known to have the virus, which it said “turned out to be a recipe for disaster.”

LTC outbreaks comprise just under one-fifth of the Garden State’s more than 141,000 known cases, but deaths linked to those outbreaks make up more than half of the more than 9,700 deaths in New Jersey, according to Politico.