(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee, released the following statement after today’s joining meeting with the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to hear testimony on the spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey’s long term care facilities and veterans homes:
“Since the pandemic began, there have been days when nearly 50 percent of COVID-19 related deaths have occured in long term care facilities, including veterans homes. To date, New Jersey has confirmed the deaths of over 6,000 long term care residents and over 115 staff. These numbers are staggering, heartbreaking, and unacceptable.
“They were members of our communities. They were parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends. Each of them were members of someone’s cherished family. Their loss of life is all the more tragic because their families were not with them at the end to say their final goodbyes.
“We all feel a moral responsibility to take care of our most vulnerable citizens. We must think critically and systemically about how we can better protect our most vulnerable, particularly those in congregate living settings like nursing and veterans’ homes. We do not want to point fingers, but we need to create a blueprint for long overdue reform, and make sure that we as a State are prepared for any future crises.
“The independent review conducted by Manatt Health identifies weaknesses in the long term care system and provides specific actions needed to prevent further tragedy. As it notes, COVID-19 did not create the problems in long term care; it merely exacerbated them.
“We are taking our first steps in creating a more resilient, high quality long term care system that our loved ones deserve. I’d also like to express my gratitude for all of our frontline workers, especially those in long term care facilities who are dedicated to the wellbeing of residents and patients. We must always keep these heroes at the center of what we do.”