NJ investigating: 4,155 COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities
New Jersey’s official COVID-19 death count is 8,244. More than half of the fatalities, a total of 4,151, have been recorded at long-term care facilities.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal gave an update on a wide-ranging nursing home investigation that was launched on April 16, saying the probe was prompted by the high number of deaths at these facilities “and by the disturbing reports that we were receiving — reports of bodies piled up in makeshift morgues, reports of nurses and staff without adequate [personal protective equipment] and of family members left in the dark.”
The investigation began immediately after the discovery of 17 bodies piled up at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County.
Grewal said Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic has been, in many respects, like the equivalent of a 500-year flood.
“But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t examine how folks responded when those flood waters started rising, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t examine how they operated before that flood — if they cut corners, if they ignored red flags or warnings, if they lied to regulators or others, if they put profits over patients," he said.
Grewal said the investigation is in its early stages and facts are being gathered.
“We’re willing to go wherever the facts take us. We’re willing to devote whatever resources are necessary to figure out what went wrong and if anybody did something wrong, to hold them accountable,” he said.
Grewal said in order to do the most thorough investigation, he is asking for the public’s help.
“If you have first-hand knowledge of illegal activity or other misconduct at a long-term care facility or in this industry during the pandemic or before, please let us know,” he said. “We’ve created a reporting portal at covid19.nj.gov/ltc.”
Gov. Phil Murphy said the investigation is an important step and will make a difference.
“There’s no question there’s long-term repercussions for this industry — period,” he said. “Learning the lessons and getting it right the next time.”
Grewal declined to give specific information about which facilities are being questioned but he did say “we have a very comprehensive investigative plan and we’re following it.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com