Federal investigators conduct interviews at 2 NJ veterans’ homes about COVID-19 deaths
The federal investigation into COVID-19 deaths at some of New Jersey’s state-run veterans’ homes is intensifying.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that investigators from the Justice Department began interviewing staff at the Menlo Park and Paramus facilities last week.
Gov. Phil Murphy reacted to the update at his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
“It’s an overwhelming tragedy, the tragedy within the tragedy is long-term care and within that, our blessed veterans,” Murphy said.
More than 150 veterans died from the virus they contracted at three federally licensed and state-run nursing homes. The majority of those deaths were in Menlo Park and Paramus.
“God bless our veterans – 64, 81, 12 – those are the lost, confirmed lives between Menlo Park, 81, 64 – Paramus, Vineland – 12. We had a most recent death in Vineland – first one in months,” Murphy said.
The federal Department of Justice last week intensified its investigation at Paramus and Menlo Park, interviewing residents and staff on whether or not the medical care was adequate during the start of the pandemic. The department may investigate whether decisions to discourage masking or restrict protective equipment had an impact.
“We have been dogged, under the leadership of Dr. Ed. Lifshitz, to be explicit in any death toll numbers,” Murphy said.
Federal investigators declined to open an investigation into disgraced New York ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of tallying nursing home deaths. In New Jersey, the federal investigation appears to be only focused on Paramus and Menlo Park and the other long-term care facilities where nearly 8,000 residents and dozens of staff members died.
“If there’s a federal investigation going on on something, you can assume upfront that we’re not going to have any commentary,” Murphy said.
The full death toll at all three veterans' homes is currently at 206, including probable deaths. The news of the DOJ interviews was first broken by the Bergen Record on Friday.