With Nursing Home Deaths Rising, Senator Pennacchio Once Again Calls for Action

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Senator Joseph Pennacchio. File Photo

MORRIS COUNTY  — Senator Joe Pennacchio called the escalating COVID death count within long-term care facilities a heartbreaking indication that after almost a year into the pandemic, errors by the Murphy Administration are still costing the lives of elderly residents.

“More than 300 seniors died in facilities in December alone, more than the previous three months combined,” said Pennacchio. “The Administration has clearly failed to learn from its mistakes – mistakes that contributed to the loss of more than 7,500 virus victims. COVID outbreaks continue a rampant spread through veterans and nursing homes, and the State’s policies have not been adapted. They are doing the same things and hoping for different results, and as the numbers show, that approach is failing miserably.”

The conditions in nursing homes and LTC facilities are spiraling, with cases and deaths nearly doubling in 45 days.  Department of Health statistics show that since Nov. 16, there has been a 132 percent increase in cases associated with outbreaks, and fatalities spiked 62 percent.

“The Administration has failed to apply the same common sense to nursing homes they have afforded the prisons,” Pennacchio said. “The state continues to allow new COVID-positive patients into nursing homes, exposing and putting at risk the vulnerable residents who reside there. How do they justify that?”

Pennacchio faulted the State Senate for “abdication of responsibility,” and “a historic indifference to the more than 7,500 souls that died.”

The Senator called for a Senate Select Oversight Committee to investigate the Administration’s handling of the COVID crisis in April. A month later, with fatalities mounting in nursing homes, Senate Republicans wrote a letter to Senate leadership requesting the creation of the panel.

“We had an agreement to convene the committee, but unfortunately, it became a partisan issue. On three different occasions, motions to form this important Senate Select Committee were voted down on partisan lines with Democrats refusing to commit to the oversight,” Pennacchio said. “The families of nursing home victims have no place to turn for answers because the State Senate turned its back on them.

“The Senate Dems showed more interest in figuring out who placed the cones on the George Washington Bridge than investigating the policies resulting in unthinkable numbers of deaths in nursing and veterans homes,” the Senator continued.

“The pandemic is more important than political gamesmanship, and the recent numbers make it crystal clear,” said Pennacchio. “The people sent us to Trenton to do a job, and it is time for the Senate to investigate the way the State has handled the COVID outbreak.”