State Department of Health’s Chaos led to Nursing Home Deaths

Pennacchio questions why Senate Select Committee has yet to be announced

After published reports of a “scathing letter from health department insiders” suggested the state’s many pandemic failures resulted in preventable deaths, Senator Joe Pennacchio questioned the delay in establishing a Senate special committee to investigate the Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

New Jersey residents deserve answers to glaring questions about the Department of Health’s approach to protecting the public from the coronavirus, said Senator Pennacchio after another published report cited dysfunction within the department. (

“We have more questions than answers, and this report is proof positive that we need to act now before more lives are lost,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “I, and many others, have voiced concerns with the functionality of the health department. It’s becoming obvious problems within the department have contributed to, or directly led to, thousands of deaths.”

Pennacchio called for an immediate retrospective review of the state’s coronavirus procedures on May 7. At the time, the state had lost 8,000 people to the virus, and half of the deaths were from nursing homes.

“I, and many others, have been sounding the alarm that poor judgement and flawed determinations within the state hierarchy could be costing lives,” Pennacchio said. “The death toll continues to rise, and the public is losing confidence in the department. To learn what, if anything, we were doing wrong, we needed a real-time investigation to review the processes and decision-making. The need for that probe is even greater today in light of the report.”

On May 22, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean announced plans to establish a special committee to investigate a range of issues related to the coronavirus crisis.

“We need to learn what data the Governor is using to determine when to re-open the state, and to understand if his matrix is being adjusted to reflect real time changes in data,” Pennacchio said. “This is too important for Murphy to rely on gut feelings and instincts.”


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