Atlantic Health CEO, who prescribes caution, is named to governor’s panel on restarting NJ economy

Atlantic CEO Brian Gragnolati speaks at announcement of Breakthrough Oncology Generator at Morristown Medical Center, Oct. 3, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Atlantic CEO Brian Gragnolati, speaking at an event in 2018. . Photo by Kevin Coughlin


Brian Gragnolati, CEO of Atlantic Health, the parent company of Morristown Medical Center, has been named to a panel that will advise Gov. Phil Murphy on how to restart New Jersey’s economy during this pandemic.

Gragnolati will serve on a healthcare subcommittee of the Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, announced by the governor on Friday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wears a personalized mask as he wraps up his Friday, May 8, 2020, press conference. Pool photo by Thomas Costello / Gannett.

“This group will not only help us gather the local intelligence we need to get our economy running again, but also will help us create the framework for coping with our new long-term economic realities,”  Murphy said.

The advisory council is co-chaired by New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Secretary Zakiya Smith Ellis, New Jersey Economic Development Authority CEO Tim Sullivan, and Choose New Jersey President and CEO Jose Lozano.

Other subcommittees address Facilities and Construction, Government, Main Street, Manufacturing and Supply Chain, Professional Services, Social Services and Faith, Tourism and Entertainment, and Transportation and Infrastructure.

Restarting the Garden State’s economy poses enormous challenges. More than 1 million residents have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began; the state is struggling to process a backlog of 300,000 claims.

And although hospitals are seeing a letup in the number of coronavirus cases–1,000 fewer cases over the last week– infections and deaths continue rising in long term care facilities.

“We’ve made an enormous amount of progress, but …we’re not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said at Friday’s press briefing.

Atlantic Health CEO Brian Gragnolati fields COVID-19 questions online, April 28, 2020.

Rushing to reopen everything could bring COVID-19 roaring back with greater ferocity, which “will truly, truly, truly be a disaster,” Gragnolati warned during a teleconference on April 28, 2020.

Large sporting events and concerts and packed restaurants are not advisable for the foreseeable future, the hospital executive cautioned. He compared reopening the economy to gradually adjusting a dimmer control–not flicking a switch.

Expanded COVID-19 testing and contact tracing–identifying who has had contact with infected persons–are essential to control the spread of the virus and return to something resembling life before the pandemic, Gragnolati said last month.

Gov. Phil Murphy with COVID-19 deaths numbers, May 8, 2020. Pool photo by Thomas Costello / Gannett.

Through Friday, the novel coronavirus had killed at least 8,952 people in New Jersey, and 135,454 residents had tested positive for the disease.

More than half of the victims — 4,691– have been residents of long term care facilities. Outbreaks have been reported in 514 of 575 facilities statewide.

On Wednesday, Murphy announced that this situation will be investigated by another panel of experts, led by Cindy Mann, who ran Medicaid for President Obama, and Carol Raphael, former CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and former chairperson of AARP.

In Morris County, some 1,614 COVID-19 cases have been reported at 41 long term care facilities, with 389 fatalities.

These are the total cases and deaths so far at facilities in Greater Morristown:

  • CareOne at Madison Avenue Morristown: 121, 23
  • Morris View Healthcare Center Morris Township: 120, 19
  • Morristown Post Acute Rehabilitation and Nursing Center: 68, 11
  • Arbor Terrace Morris Plains: 16, 3
  • Spring Hills of Morristown: 8, 2
  • Sunrise Assisted Living of Morris Plains Morris Plains: 4, 1

At Greystone Park State Psychiatric Hospital, on the border of Morris Plains and Parsippany, five patients have died and 54 have tested positive–out of 338 total patients. And 113 staff members have tested positive.


Overall, Morris County has lost 506 people to COVID-19,  and 5,767 residents have tested positive, according to state figures as of Friday.

Morristown has 465 confirmed cases; Morris Township, 265; and Morris Plains, 53, reports the county Office of Health Management.

Gragnolati, who began his career as an emergency medical technician, came to Atlantic Health from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. He now oversees six hospitals. Atlantic’s flagship, Morristown Medical Center, was rated New Jersey’s best hospital by Newsweek.

Last year, Gragnolati assumed the  chairmanship of the American Hospital Association. Modern Healthcare listed him among the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.

Gragnolati is among 32 experts on the Restart and Recovery Council’s health subcommittee, which includes representatives of RWJ Barnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian Health, Rutgers and Princeton universities, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Red Cross.


Gov. Murphy announced the members of his Advisory Council, May 8, 2020. Pool photo by Thomas Costello / Gannett.

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