By Matt Rooney
As of Sunday? Memorial Day 2020 Eve? 143 veterans – spread out over three Garden State veterans homes (located in Vineland, Paramus and Menlo Park) – have succumb to COVID-19. We don’t have official numbers, but additional veterans are undoubtedly among the other 5,476 victims who resided in New Jersey’s other long-term care facilities since this pandemic began. They’re dying in droves. Half of New Jersey’s coronavirus deaths ocurred in a long-term care facility.
One name which keeps coming up in published reports is Tom Mastropietro, and for good reason.
Tom served our country in Korea. On April 11th, his family was reportedly told that the U.S. Army veteran residing at the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home was doing just fine. But he wasn’t fine; according to NorthJersey.com, the family eventually found out that Tom had died earlier that same day. His identity had been mixed up with that of another COVID-19 positive resident.
“I inquired about the coronavirus and was told there were no cases,” Tom’s son Steve Mastropietro told NorthJersey.com. “Looking back, I’m sure there were coronavirus cases, but no one had been tested.”
The testing point is key to understanding what happened. It’s not complicated. We don’t need a special committee, hours of hearings, and partisan recriminations to get to the bottom of it.
Early on in the crisis, while the Media and pundits were focused on beach footage of youths in bathing suits pissing off the Karens of the world with their lack of social distancing, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis was allowing Florida nursing homes to reject COVID-19 positive admissions. Phil Murphy and Andrew Cuomo took a different approach. A deadly approach.
You’ve hopefully seen the March 31, 2020 letter by now? The “woman who needs no introduction” Judith Persichilli (but who apparently needs an introduction to Murphy) doomed thousands of our state’s most vulnerable by expressly forbidding the screenings that were happening down in the Sunshine State:
“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. Persons under investigation for COVID-19 who have undergone testing in the hospital shall not be discharged until results are available. 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 full letter can be viewed here.
Ultimately, the great state of Florida (despite being a much more populous and older state than New Jersey) has seen 1,000 long-term care facility deaths as opposed to New Jersey’s 5,619.
We’re going to hear a lot of excuses in the weeks and months to come. Those excuses are bullshit. Murphy had the same information as DeSantis. He inexplicably came to the wrong conclusion. The bad decisions, by the way, began long before Coronavirus hit our shores.
“The VFW has repeatedly expressed concerns that Governor Murphy’s budget cuts, along with his failure to fill the New Jersey Veterans’ Memorial Home Advisory Council vacancies, would impact the health and wellbeing of veterans,” complained Barbara Kim-Hagemann, VFW State Commander in an April 22nd press release. Her organization is conducting an independent review of the situation.
The VFW’s anger is justified. These 143 New Jersey veterans managed to survive war. Some helped beat Hitler. Others made it out of Korea or Vietnam. They weathered unspeakable horrors to keep our nation safe.
They just couldn’t survive the Murphy Administration.
Save Jersey’s Founder and Blogger-in-Chief, MATT ROONEY is a nationally-noted and respected New Jersey political commentator. When he’s not on-line, radio or television advocating for conservative reform and challenging N.J. power-brokers, Matt is a practicing attorney at the law firm of DeMichele & DeMichele in Haddon Heights (Camden County).