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Pennacchio to Federal Government: ‘Take Over Long-Term Nursing Facilities Now’

In light of growing, serious concerns about the New Jersey Health Department’s effectiveness during the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Senator Joe Pennacchio wrote to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, asking the federal government to take control of the state’s long-term care facilities.

Senator Pennacchio today asked the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to assume oversight of New Jersey’s long-term care facilities. (Wikimedia Commons)

The full text of the letter follows:

June 2, 2020

Dear Administrator Verma,

I am writing to you today because New Jersey is in a crisis. It has failed to protect our most vulnerable residents and the need for federal oversight and intervention is glaring. As of June 1, 2020, the number of COVID related deaths at state-regulated nursing homes stands at 5,930, a number of lost lives that sadly grows with each passing day. To date, one out of every 10 long-term nursing facility residents in New Jersey has died.

New Jersey’s administration has proven to be ineffective, impotent, and a threat to those who live, work, and visit these facilities. Please consider:

  • The state’s decision to direct nursing homes to admit patients from hospitals who had previously tested positive for the virus and prohibiting facilities from requiring incoming patients be tested for COVID prior to admission.

  • According to a published report, the New Jersey Commissioner of Health told several health department officials, “I never have the Governor’s attention,” and “I have never had a one-on-one with him.”

  • The Assistant Commissioner of Public Health, who was recently fired, is claiming to be a scapegoat for the administration’s abject failures.

  • A group of health department employees tasked with overseeing New Jersey’s pandemic response sent an anonymous letter saying:

    • The administration is making things up as they proceed.

    • Leadership failures of the Department of Health Commissioner led to preventable deaths.

    • A toxic culture of infighting in the Governor’s administration has prevented the right decisions from being made.

    • Allegations that the Commissioner of Human Services steered a $500,000 contract to look at the state’s COVID response to a personal friend.

Career public health officials are risking their livelihoods and screaming for an investigation of their own workplace where they believe incompetence and corruption permeate. Family and friends who have sadly lost a loved one need answers as to why the government failed them in their greatest time of need. Most importantly, the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, teachers, and veterans who reside in these nursing homes deserve a safe place to call home.

I implore you to use your authority and any other federal resources that may be needed to thoroughly investigate and take control of New Jersey’s long-term nursing facilities. Lives depend on it.

Thank you for your time and anticipated cooperation.


Joe Pennacchio

Senator – 26th Legislative District



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