New Jersey Administration Disregards CDC’s Advice, COVID-19 Permitted in Nursing Homes
This information presented in this article was first reported by NJ.com
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a cornerstone of public health knowledge, highlighted in March 2020 the dangers of COVID-19 spreading rapidly in nursing facilities. This warning was based on a case from a Washington State nursing home where the virus spread quickly, even with preventive measures in place.
Ignoring this, New Jersey’s Health Department issued a directive allowing the admission or re-admission of individuals to long-term care facilities regardless of their COVID-19 status. This move mirrored a similar, criticized decision by New York a week prior.
Christopher Laxton, executive director of the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Medicine, emphasized the stark differences between hospitals and nursing homes. He pointed out that nursing homes lack the staffing ratios of hospitals, making them ill-equipped to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases. The misguided rationale behind these decisions was to free up hospital beds, but this backfired. Even the hospital ship Comfort, equipped as a floating ICU, remained underutilized.
The Society’s press release warned that such decisions by states would endanger the elderly in nursing homes. Yet, New Jersey and New York went ahead, resulting in a significant crisis. The aftermath was evident in a headline from the Wednesday Star-Ledger: “5,368 dead and counting: An investigation of state failures as crisis rampaged through N.J. nursing homes.”
Contrastingly, Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, took a proactive approach, keeping COVID-19 positive individuals out of nursing homes. This decision, informed by Florida’s high number of nursing homes, resulted in significantly fewer fatalities compared to New Jersey, even though Florida has a larger population.
Laxton stressed the importance of informed policymaking, suggesting that decisions made without expert consultation can lead to catastrophic outcomes. He criticized the echo chamber in Trenton, where Governor Murphy often surrounded himself with agreeable voices, sidelining critical feedback.
The gravity of the situation prompted 15 Republican senators in New Jersey to call for an inquiry into Murphy’s handling of the nursing home crisis. This move was, however, blocked by the Democratic majority. Republican Declan O’Scanlon emphasized the need for such an inquiry, stating that ignoring crucial health data is a grave mistake.