New Jersey veterans’ homes barred masks at start of COVID-19 crisis

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New Jersey veterans’ homes barred employees from wearing face coverings in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — under a policy from Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, a new report says.

The administration even set up a “progressive discipline” process for “mask insubordination” in late March, just days before the state’s health commissioner ordered all staffers in nursing homes to wear face coverings, according to the Record and NorthJersey.com.

The discipline would start with a verbal warning and, after a fourth violation, the worker would be suspended, according to a March 27 email.

At the Paramus and Menlo Park homes, managers pushed back against mask-wearing for ambulance crews that transported patients, and forced one worker to go home because he wasn’t allowed to wear a mask, emails obtained by the outlets show.

In mid-March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised nursing homes across the country that a person should wear a mask if they were showing symptoms and employees should wear personal protective equipment if they were caring for residents.

But until New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli ordered all nursing home employees to mask up on March 30, the wearing of face coverings was discouraged, the outlet reported.

The first COVID-19 case in a nursing home was not confirmed until March 28 due to testing delays.

hopp

Robert Hopp was one of at least 79 residents at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus who died from COVID-19.

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Florence Hopp stands with her son J.J. Brania-Hopp as she holds a photo of her late husband, Robert.

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Nursing homes were hit hard in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak as limited testing and limited masks led to policies in New Jersey, as well as New York, that now face severe criticism.

In a statement to the paper, a spokesman for Murphy said the supply of PPE “was strained in March and painstaking steps were taken to ensure its proper usage.”

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