Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
On March 31st, New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli issued an order to nursing homes and rehab facilities ordering them to take coronavirus patients.
Relying on Governor Murphy’s Public Health Emergency executive order, she issued a Health Department order that set out to achieve “the expedited receipt of patients/residents discharging from hospitals” by warning that, “no patient/resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the post-acute care setting solely based on a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.”
The New Jersey Health boss further warned that “post-acute care facilities are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized patient/resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”
The order was horrifying, but not unusual. A number of blue states, including New York and California, had issued similar orders. But New Jersey had nearly half its deaths occur in nursing homes. Horrifying scenes, such as 18 bodies stacked in one nursing home facility waiting for pickup or the 53 veterans who died at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, would soon fill the news.
As of now, 16,000 deaths have happened in nursing homes nationwide. That’s 1 in 4.
But in more liberal areas, the numbers have been much higher. 44% of Illinois coronavirus deaths have been tied to nursing homes with over 1,000 fatalities. That’s compared to 1 in 5 in Texas and Florida. Meanwhile in Europe, around half the deaths have been taking place in nursing homes.
In New Jersey, 3,376 deaths out of the 7,228 deaths in the state have occurred in nursing homes.
That’s 46% or nearly 1 in 2 deaths.
These numbers have changed and will continue to change. The number of estimated nursing home deaths rose from 2,973 to 3,376 in just a matter of days. But the larger picture won’t change.
476 facilities in New Jersey have coronavirus outbreaks. The death rate for the infected appears to be at 17 percent. That’s far higher than the death toll among the general population. And even while New Jersey shut down everything it could, its attitude toward nursing home deaths was dismissive.
On the same day that Persichilli issued her order, she participated in a press conference with her boss, Governor Murphy, at which the issue of disclosing data about outbreaks in facilities was discussed.
After a reporter for the Star Ledger asked for the names of the facilities affected, Persichilli, like Democrat health officials in other states like Michigan and Illinois, fought against releasing the names.
“Part of my conversation this afternoon with the long-term care facilities will be the fact that you all are asking for the names,” she complained. “And we don’t want to scare anyone.”
Scaring people was fine when it came to shutting down houses of worship and parks, but not releasing the names of facilities that had actual outbreaks of the virus that the lockdown claimed to be fighting.
Governor Murphy, the Wall Street vet, who had bought an ambassadorship from Obama, before buying a governorship, then joined in. “I won’t get into names of facilities, and again, this is a delicate area because you’ve got, not at all these places but in many places you’ve got end-of-life realities.”
“Just by nature of the notion of a long-term care facility, you’re dealing with life and death issues on a much more regular basis than we are in general society,” he added.
Governor Murphy was suggesting that people shouldn’t pay too much attention to the death tolls in nursing homes because people tend to die there anyway, and it’s hard to tell what they died from.
Meanwhile, facilities appeared to have been falsely reporting that they had no virus deaths, even when workers and family members were telling a different story. The official numbers are self-reported, and with limited testing, the self-reporting may be of extremely dubious accuracy and worth. Laymen like to believe that the cause of death is the product of a verifiable medical investigation. They picture television scenes of doctors working in a lab or bending over a patient’s body on an autopsy table. In real life, death certificates are often not even filled in by doctors who had any experience with the patient. The cause of death is often a presumption based on the patient’s medical history and nursing staff accounts. In the current climate, overestimation and underestimation are both entirely possible.
“Their death reporting seems to be not correct,” Persichilli conceded.
What we do know is that the death tolls at New Jersey nursing homes are drastically abnormal. It is not normal for 60 patients to die in one month at a facility where 150 people usually die in one year. Nor is it normal for 18 bodies to pile up in one facility waiting to be picked up. These are plague events.
We will never know how many nursing home patients died of the virus. We can only make guesses. Eventually there will be a calculated number of excess deaths, but it will be hard to know how many of those came about because of the virus, and how many from staff neglect and social isolation. Family visits are often the only thing keeping staff at such facilities from neglecting and abusing residents.
And we will never know how many died because Governor Murphy’s administration ordered facilities to accept coronavirus patients, and forbade them to test to see whether returning patients were infected.
One of the worst death tolls in the state occurred at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus which is managed by the state.
Governor Murphy claimed that he had to shut down churches and synagogues, and arrest people who tried to pray in them in order to save lives. But if he had really wanted to save lives, the focus would have been on the nursing homes, which would have been safeguarded, instead of endangered.
Like many other blue state governors, including Newsom in California and Cuomo in New York, New Jersey focused on lightening the load on hospitals by discharging patients as quickly as possible. This was the same reason that new mothers were expelled from hospitals less than a day after giving birth and most medical procedures, including lifesaving ones, were halted to prep for the influx of virus patients.
But the influx never arrived.
At the same press conference where Murphy waved off death tolls at nursing homes, a reporter mentioned that hospitals were furloughing staff and facing a serious decline in revenues.
While New Jersey was pushing elderly patients out of hospitals and into nursing homes to prepare for the arrival of a horde of coronavirus patients that would overwhelm medical facilities, the influx never happened. Instead of coronavirus overwhelming hospitals: it overwhelmed nursing homes instead.
The model that provided much of the rationale for the lockdown was wrong with deadly results.
Hospitals were pushed to discharge patients to nursing homes while their facilities remained empty. The discharged patients instead spread the virus in nursing homes leading to unknown numbers of deaths.
The lockdown model for dealing with the pandemic lied and countless thousands of the elderly died.
There were two possible approaches to saving lives from the pandemic. One approach favored securing vulnerable populations while the other shut down everything on the assumption that the risk was everywhere. Instead of distinguishing between high and low risk populations, the latter approach assumed everyone was at risk and divided people into the essential and the non-essential.
The lockdown solution paralyzed the economy, deprived millions of their civil liberties, but it also killed thousands of nursing home residents because it diverted attention from protecting vulnerable people. Its underlying conviction that hospitals would soon be overwhelmed led to the orders in New Jersey, New York, California, and other states that helped turn nursing homes into coronavirus hot zones.
Governors have scolded lockdown skeptics, telling them to listen to the science. But the officials who signed the death warrants for thousands of nursing home residents should have listened to the science. Instead they may have killed thousands by refusing to protect the most vulnerable populations.
It’s not too late.
We have spent too long debating the false choice between reopening the economy and preventing coronavirus deaths when what we needed was fewer speculative pandemic models, all of which have proven to be wrong, and more of an evidence-based approach to protecting the people at risk.
For a tiny fraction of the wasted trillions, we could have saved many of those who died. All we had to do was follow the actual science and the best practices for preventing infections.
Hundreds of thousands of people don’t have to die. Millions of people don’t have to be locked in their homes. We can stop the pandemic and save the economy. All we have to do is care.
What was missing in New Jersey, New York, California, and so many blue states, from the lectures, scoldings, and press conferences by public officials was real concern for the people who are dying. Not for the models, the plans, the charts, the orders, and the directives, but for the actual human beings.
Thousands died because the politicians didn’t care. And the people most at risk will go on dying.
The blue state politicians who adopted total lockdowns as the solution to everything claimed that they wanted to save lives. Go look at the bodies piled up in nursing homes and see if you believe them.