With more than half of the state’s 9,508 coronavirus-related deaths occurring in Long Term Care Facilities and Veterans Memorial Homes, Chair of the Senate Health Committee Senator Joseph Vitale wants to conduct a series of public hearings to investigate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in these devastated populations.
“There is no question that this disease inherently poses a greater threat to the elderly and the sick,” said Senator Vitale (D-19). “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, including: As the coronavirus came to our shores, what measures were taken to prepare these vulnerable populations? Where were the breakdowns in oversight? What concrete steps have been taken to ensure they now have the resources they need to weather the remaining effects of the disease in New Jersey?”
Originally scheduled for next week, the committee will hold hearings after consultations with the administration, including Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli, Commissioner of Human Services Carole Johnson; representatives from Long Term Care Facilities, the former Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Piterski as well as his acting replacement retired Col. Walter Nall, among others.
Senator Vitale said that following the rescheduled hearings, the committee will present its findings and recommendations to the Governor so as to help “prevent anything like this in the future”.
“The staggering losses in homes meant to keep our most susceptible family members safe is a tragic failure,” Vitale said. “While this pandemic is unprecedented it was not unpredictable, and we have to understand where we went wrong if we are going to ensure that it will never happen again.”
As of Monday May 11, 53% of the more than 9,000 people who died from COVID-19 in the state were long term care patients or staff.