Bill establishing commission to create memorial for New Jersey’s frontline health care workers heads to full Senate for vote

The New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today unanimously released legislation establishing a commission to create a memorial for frontline health care workers who valiantly fought and risked their lives battling the coronavirus.

Since the pandemic’s onset, more than 1.835 million New Jerseyans have contracted COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of more than 28,850 state residents.

Those casualties include frontline health care workers who displayed tremendous courage and dedication in their efforts to treat coronavirus patients, Diegnan said.

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 pandemic’s first year alone. New Jersey accounted for nearly 270 of those deaths, ranking fourth in the country behind New York, Texas, and California.

Healthcare workers in 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 (S144), the COVID-19 Frontline Healthcare Worker Commission would consist of nine public members who are state residents and representative of frontline health care 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.

The bill, which the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee unanimously released in an 8-0 vote, heads to the full Senate for approval.

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,” Diegnan said, “that their sacrifice never be forgotten.”

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