TRENTON – The push in the state Senate for a special committee to investigate deaths in New Jersey nursing homes during the pandemic is now bipartisan.

Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, introduced a resolution Thursday that would establish a Nursing Home Pandemic Response Investigation Committee. It would have seven members and examine the effects of state actions, executive orders, legislation and state policies on nursing homes, residents and their families.

“The only way that we can ensure the public receives the answers they deserve is to have this committee in the Legislature,” Gill said. “We must have a comprehensive report on how our system of care failed seniors and their families and how we can improve these systems going forward.”

The resolution is similar to what has been advocated for since 2020 by Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris, who is now also a prime sponsor of Gill’s proposal.

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“It is encouraging to see bipartisan support for an inquiry,” Pennacchio said. “Without an official forum, it is obvious New Jersey residents will never learn the truth about what happened in the nursing homes and what could have been done to prevent the tragedies and save lives.”

The state Department of Health reports that there have been 9,142 lab-confirmed, COVID-related in long-term care facilities among residents and staff since the start of the pandemic. A separate count from a self-reporting survey by facilities shows 8,464 residents and 149 staff deaths.

Many of the deaths happened in the early days of the emergence of the virus. Critics say it’s because state policy required the return to nursing homes of infected patients released from hospitals, but the state says its directive required those residents to be housed separately.

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