Having already settled some $69 million worth of nearly 200 COVID-19 claims from families of victims, Gov. Phil Murphy's administration is now being hit with a series of 41 lawsuits from employees of New Jersey's state-run veterans homes in Menlo Park and Paramus.

A report by NorthJersey.com said decisions made by the state, from skirting mask guidance in the early days of the pandemic to allowing or even demanding that presumptive positive COVID carriers continue to work at the facilities, eventually resulted in the deaths of almost 200 residents and two employees.

NJ.com further reported that "disciplinary threats and possible termination" were possible outcomes for those who wore masks at the veterans homes in the opening month of the pandemic in the Garden State.

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It was not until March 30, 2020, NorthJersey.com reported, that universal masking was mandated by state Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

Both publications reported that the lawsuits claim the state believed at first that staff wearing masks might "scare" patients and residents.

All of it led to workers being "put in a boat without a paddle," according to Roseland-based attorney Paul da Costa, who filed the complaints, according to the reports.

In October 2020, more than six months and most of those deaths into the pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy replaced the commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Maj. Gen. Jemal Beale, as well as the CEOs of Menlo Park, Elizabeth Schiff-Heedles, and Paramus, Matthew Schottlander.

But three separate investigations, also including the veterans home in Vineland, remain in limbo almost two years after that, according to NorthJersey.com, and disciplinary action has not been taken.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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