the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Paramus NJ, As the COVID outbreak began spreading, workers at veterans’ homes operated by the State were prohibited from wearing masks and risked punishment for protecting themselves and residents, according to an investigation by The Record newspaper.
Senator Joe Pennacchio criticized the dangerous strategy and renewed his call for a Senate Select Committee with subpoena power to investigate.
“At the same time leadership was demanding nursing homes accept COVID-positive patients and banned virus testing in the facilities, they were mandating risky mask practices by the staff that endangered lives,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “This irresponsible management contributed to the rapid spread of COVID through veterans and nursing homes, resulting in more than 7,100 deaths.”
In his report, journalist Scott Fallon revealed emails between Department of Veterans and Military Affairs officials discussing penalties for “mask insubordination,” indicated management at the Menlo Park veterans home in Edison discouraged ambulance crews and outside vendors from using masks, and that the Governor’s office assisted in developing penalties for nurses who defied the no-mask order.
Almost 200 people died at New Jersey’s veterans facilities in Paramus and Edison.
“Combined with recent developments including the state missing the deadline for starting vaccinations in nursing homes and the botched grant program to increase COVID testing capacity exposed by Politico New Jersey, the events that transpired in the senior facilities demand scrutiny,” said Pennacchio (R-26).
“Once again, I am calling for a Senate Select Committee to compel testimony from administration and health department insiders so we can finally get to the bottom of the State’s handling of the pandemic, both in and out of the nursing homes. For the health and welfare of senior citizens in veterans and nursing homes, and all New Jersey residents, we need to know more about what was going on behind the scenes in Trenton, and what we can do to prevent more illness and death.”
Senate leadership agreed to establish a special committee to investigate a range of issues related to the coronavirus crisis more than seven months ago.