Senate Republicans, sensing an opening, again call for COVID-19 hearings

New Jersey Republicans in the state Senate — perhaps somewhat hesitant to criticize Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic because of his sky-high approval ratings — appear to have found a small opening this past weekend.

Responding to an article by New Jersey Advance Media questioning why the Legislature has failed to act on important hearings to investigate the state’s pandemic preparedness — especially as it relates to long-term care facilities — Senator Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) and Senate Republicans called for a select committee to immediately begin investigating the administration’s response to COVID-19.

“The hearings we called for more than two months ago aren’t happening, and we’re all angry and frustrated,” they said in a midday release Sunday. “Mistakes were made that cost thousands of people their lives in nursing homes, and we recognize the crucial need to understand what led to the mistakes. Delays and foot-dragging are costing us time we cannot afford to lose.”

The Republicans noted this isn’t their first ask.

“In a letter on May 20, we called for the formation of a Senate Select Committee with subpoena power to investigate the administration’s response to COVID so we can understand what happened, learn from errors and prevent it from happening again,” they said in the release.

“That’s why our entire caucus supported this effort and voted for the committee creation, even as some Democrats moved to block our efforts.

“This must happen immediately. It is beyond time for this committee to meet.”

Other notes from the weekend:

Health metrics

Murphy announced Sunday that there were 144 new positive cases of COVID-19, increasing the state total to 176,783. This follows 309 new cases reported Saturday.

That being said, Murphy — on Twitter — said the numbers may be off a bit due to technical issues.

“Today’s total case count is lower than yesterday’s case count due to an issue related to electronic receipt of lab results and a high volume of duplicate case merges,” he said in a tweet. “This situation is being looked into closely and will tried to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

There were 11 additional fatalities on Sunday — and 16 on Saturday. The state’s COVID-19 fatality total stands at 13,732 — with nearly 2,000 more additional presumptive fatalities.

Honoring John Lewis

On Saturday, Murphy ordered that the U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities in recognition of the passing of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a famed civil rights leader. The flags will remain at half-staff until the date of his interment.

“For 60 years, from his seat among the Freedom Riders to his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Lewis stirred the soul of America to live up to our greatest ideals of equality,” Murphy said. “In each and every action, large and small, John Lewis was the conscience of our nation. When he spoke, it was with authority and compassion.

“Our nation and world mourn the passing of a true American icon. I mourn the passing of a role model. And, in our sorrow, let us commit to carrying on his work, and building upon the tremendous legacy which is John Lewis’ lasting gift to us all.”

Read more from ROI-NJ:

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: