‘They could have been kept in hospitals.’ Republicans continue informal hearings into New Jersey nursing home deaths

Gov. Phil Murphy is responding to growing criticism over the nearly 8,000 COVID-19-related deaths in New Jersey nursing homes.
The governor on Wednesday said that nursing homes should have separated COVID-positive residents or told the state Department of Health if they couldn’t.
“The directives that [Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli] put out instructed each of these long-term care facilities to separate both patients and staff and acknowledge that these were their homes," he said.
Republican lawmakers are leading an independent probe into the Murphy administration’s actions during the pandemic. Democrats are refusing to join the committee.
“As far as science is concerned, and blaming some of the stakeholders or some of the bad actors in nursing homes, you don’t have to look past State Street to see where some of those actors work,” says state Sen. Joe Pennacchio. “I’m not saying anyone has blood on their hand, I’m not saying a crime was committed.”
Pennacchio is leading the Republican panel investigating the governor and health commissioner’s directives.
“I would like to think that we’re giving voice and courage to come out and start saying exactly what happened,” Pennacchio says.
The senator says that COVID patients should never have been allowed to return to nursing homes.
“They still could have been kept in the hospital, because even though capacity was increasing in the hospitals, it never reached a tipping point that they could not see those patients,” Pennacchio says.
Laurie Brewer is the state’s long-term care watchdog. She was appointed by Murphy but is an independent advocate for residents and staff.
"They said, ‘If you can’t take these patients who may or may not have been exposed or have COVID, if you don’t have adequate PPE, if you don’t have staff, if you don’t have enough room to cohort or separate these people, tell us, you don’t have to take anybody then,’” Brewer says.
Brewers says that the system had problems to begin with.
The Republican investigation will continue Friday, with informal hearings into problems with the state’s unemployment system.