Senate unanimously passes bill establishing commission to create memorial for New Jersey’s frontline healthcare workers

The New Jersey Senate today unanimously passed legislation establishing a commission to create a memorial for frontline workers who valiantly fought and risked their lives battling the coronavirus.

Since the pandemic’s onset, more than 892,700 New Jerseyans have contracted COVID-19, which has accounted for the deaths of more than 23,740 state residents.

These casualties include frontline healthcare workers who displayed tremendous courage and dedication in their efforts to treat coronavirus patients, said Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., who sponsored the legislation.

According to project reporting from Kaiser Health News and The Guardian, more than 3,600 health care workers nationwide died fighting COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic.

New Jersey accounted for nearly 270 of those deaths, ranking fourth in the country behind New York, Texas, and California.

Healthcare workers from myriad fields, including those from police and fire departments, rose above their usual scope of duties to combat the surging cases of COVID-19, often with limited healthcare resources.

As one of the early epicenters of COVID-19, it is important for New Jersey to memorialize the tragic consequences of the pandemic and recognize the state’s immense loss of life, Diegnan said.

“These frontline workers,” Diegnan said, “are the definition of the word hero.”

Under the bill (S311), the COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Worker Commission will consist of nine public members who are state residents and representative of frontline healthcare workers.

The Speaker of the General Assembly, the Senate President, and the Governor will each appoint three public members of the commission.

The commission will be responsible for selecting a suitable design and location for the memorial.

A permanent fund will be established in the state Department of Treasury to serve as a repository for any donations or appropriations provided for the design, construction, and maintenance of the memorial.

Of the frontline workers who paid the ultimate price for their selflessness, Diegnan said, “Hopefully, this memorial will bring some comfort to their families.

“It is important that their sacrifice never be forgotten.”

New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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