New Jersey may be on its way to erecting a memorial for frontline health care workers who lost their lives to COVID-19.

A Senate committee on Thursday approved a proposed law that would create a commission charged with designing and overseeing the construction of such a memorial. The COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Worker Memorial Commission would also choose a suitable location for the memorial, and would be in charge of determining the best way to pay for the construction and maintenance of the project.

"These frontline workers are the definition of the word hero," said Sen. Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex, a sponsor of the measure.

Diegnan noted that at the start of the pandemic in New Jersey, doctors and nurses put their lives on the line every day "without any reliable information" regarding the best way to protect themselves.

It's been reported by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News that more than 3,600 health care workers nationwide died fighting COVID-19 during just the first year of the pandemic, including 268 in New Jersey.

"Hopefully, this memorial will bring some comfort to their families," Diegnan said. "It is important that their sacrifice never be forgotten."

The proposed law, which unanimously cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, notes that the commission would consist of nine public members who are residents of New Jersey and representative of frontline health care workers. The members would be appointed by the governor, senate president, and assembly speaker.

The bill also calls for a permanent fund to be established in the Department of Treasury, for donations or appropriations related to the design, construction, and maintenance of the memorial.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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