NEW JERSEY -- Claiming that Gov. Phil Murphy and State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli could have done more to save the lives of the elderly, a group Health Dept. workers wrote to state lawmakers to say they "have no idea what specific data points the governor uses to make decisions, because he rarely consults with them," according to reports by News 12 NJ and NJ.com (NJ Advance Media). They also believe the administration is "making things up as they proceed or making decisions and justifying them on the back end."
The letter, published in full by NJ Advance Media, was addressed to State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a potential rival for the Democratic nomination for governor next year, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., who is challenging Congressman Tom Malinowski for his 7th District Seat.
Although the whistleblowers remained anonymous, NJ Advance Media reported that it knows some of their identities. The authors of the letter requested that their identities be hidden because of fears of retaliation. Others involved did not disclose their names, but say they have been part of internal discussions within the health department, according to NJ Advance Media.
When asked about the letter, a spokesperson for Gov. Murphy responded: “We’re not going to dignify anonymous allegations with a response.”
The Health Dept. workers called for Commissioner Persichilli's resignation in the letter because they believe she bears much of the blame for the state's mishandling of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities, according to the published report.
Nearly 6,000 elderly residents of New Jersey have died in long-term care facilities because of the coronavirus pandemic. The authors of the letter maintain that many deaths could have been prevented had Dept. of Health required widespread testing earlier, rather than at the end of April.