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Nursing Home Tragedies: Nothing Will Change Without a Legislative Review of Policies and Procedures

Says Silence is Deafening, Calls for Immediate Legislative Action

When jetliners full of passengers crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and collapsed them onto crowded Manhattan streets on September 11, 2001, 2,606 people were lost. Other terrorist hijackings the same morning elevated the death toll to 2,996.

Almost 7,000 New Jersey senior citizens in nursing homes died from COVID-19 and Senator Pennacchio warned a recurrence is likely if the Legislature doesn’t conduct a thorough investigation into the Administration’s pandemic response. (Pixabay)

When the deadly coronavirus rampaged through New Jersey nursing homes in the spring of 2020, the loss of life eclipsed 6,800.

The contrast is striking, Senator Joe Pennacchio said today.

“The most horrible single event since World War II, the attacks on New York City unified our nation, led to war on the other side of the globe, and resulted in hearings, investigations and convictions,” Pennacchio said.

“Twice as many people – innocent, vulnerable people – were lost to the virus in nursing home rooms, and the reaction from State leaders has been … crickets. Where is the anger? Where is the outrage? Where is the inquisitiveness to get to the bottom of what went wrong and why these senior citizens were left to die, along and isolated?”

Pennacchio and colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus have been calling for the creation of a Senate Select Committee with subpoena power to review the State’s response to the pandemic for more than two months.

Senate leaders announced on May 22 that a bipartisan committee would be launched to examine the Administration’s handling of the pandemic, but the initiative stalled.

“Thousands of people died. Could any of them been saved? We can’t allow this to happen again,” said Pennacchio. “The best way to prevent it is through a comprehensive review of everything that went right, and everything that went wrong. It is impossible to improve the state’s readiness without studying and evaluating the real-time performance before and during the virus crisis. Getting to the truth will require the ability for the committee to compel testimony, so subpoena power is necessary component of the review.”

Approximated 61,000 senior citizens reside in the state’s long-term care facilities, and the Administration acknowledges the deaths of 6,824.

“The impact on our most vulnerable adults has been unspeakable. More than one of every 10 nursing home residents died. Shocking. We need to understand how this occurred and what we can do to ensure a repeat never happens,” Pennacchio said.

“Too many sons and daughters lost their parents. Too many children lost their grandparents. Too many people died. How many deaths could have been averted? How many people could have been saved?” the Senator concluded.


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