Politics & Policy

N.J. Pandemic Response Team Whistleblowers Slam Gov. Murphy’s ‘Dangerous’ Leadership: ‘Worst Type of Cynical Politics’

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy takes part in a regional cannabis and vaping summit in New York, October 17, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Anonymous members of New Jersey’s Pandemic Response Team have sent a letter to state lawmakers to inform them that Governor Phil Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have ignored expert advice in dealing with coronavirus, especially in handling the state’s nursing homes.

In the letter, which was leaked to NJ Advance Media, the whistleblowers allege that Murphy’s administration has refused to consult the science to make policy decisions, and is instead “making things up as they proceed, or making decisions and justifying them on the back end.” Murphy has decided “to open several aspects of the economy without the data to back it up,” the health officials state.

They also claim that Persichilli and “members of the Governor’s cabinet” ignored their warnings about protecting the state’s vulnerable population in nursing homes with widespread testing.

“To completely ignore long-term care testing until late April, when at that point, tens of thousands of tests had been offered to only mildly symptomatic New Jersey residents (again, remember that one has to be well enough to drive or be in a car to get the test at these centers), is a clear failure,” they write.

The letter slams the administration’s directive for nursing homes to allow Covid patients to return regardless of whether they were still infectious, saying the decision-making ultimately led to “preventable deaths.”

“Very few of these nursing homes were tangibly ready to take these residents back based on the Commissioner’s criteria because the state failed to allocate enough PPE and staffing resources to them to do so,” they explained.

Nearly 6,000 residents of New Jersey facilities died from the virus — nearly half of the state’s coronavirus deaths. The situation mirrors that of New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for a similar policy.

Murphy responded to news of the letter by saying he had “no time for that.” The New Jersey Ethics Commission has opened an investigation into leaks after documents were leaked to NJ Advance Media showing that nursing homes had shortages of personal protective equipment.

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