The Murphy Administration has lowered the number of reported coronavirus-related deaths in New Jersey nursing homes by nearly 1,400, claiming the method previously being used was different from those to count the rest of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
For some, that raises alarming new concerns.
“Bodies were piling up in nursing homes across the state,” state Sen. Joseph Pennachio said. “If these people didn’t die from the virus spreading like wildfire within the institutions, what did they die from? Administrative neglect?”
The number of deaths at New Jersey long-term care facilities, which reached a reported 5,700 on Monday – more than half of the state's coronavirus-related fatalities -- was slashed to 4,295.
The nearly 1,400 deaths removed from the total were of nursing home residents whose diagnoses weren’t confirmed by laboratory testing before they died, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
All reported COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey now require a lab diagnosis, he said.
“This will give us our best representation of what is happening within our long-term care facilities in comparison to the statewide number that we report,” Murphy said during his daily briefing in Trenton on Tuesday. “We were not reporting these, as it turns out, apples to apples,” the governor said.
Why were the numbers counted differently?
Many long-term care facilities “got overwhelmed very quickly,” by the pandemic, said Ed Lifshitz, medical director for the state Department of Health‘s Communicable Disease Service.
This affected the accuracy and reliability of the reporting, he said.
Even with the reduction, the number of deaths at long-term care facilities in the state during the pandemic has been staggering.
Pennachio accused Murphy of "wanting to obscure the truth" and said he refuses "to allow their deaths to be marginalized."
He called for a legislative investigation of the administration's handling of the situation.
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