COVID-19 kills 10, maybe dozens more, at NJ veterans home
PARAMUS — The National Guard is headed to the city's New Jersey Veterans Home, where COVID-19 claimed the lives of 10 New Jersey residents the state, according to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Spokesman Kryn Westhoven told New Jersey 101.5 that 23 of the home's 285 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and another 47 are awaiting test results. He would not confirm a NorthJersey.com report attributed to "official and inside sources" that COVID-19 likely contributed to the deaths of 27 other residents.
Forty New Jersey National Guard combat medics are due to report to the home Thursday to help "level off the staffing," and another 35 will report to the Veterans Memorial Home in the Menlo Park section of Edison.
Seventeen staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, with 20 staff members awaiting test results, according to Westhoven.
"We have staff that are self-quarantined. Some have tested positive. We have other staff that is out because of COVID related issues like their kids are home from school and they can't come to work and then we have people who can't come to work for other reasons," Westhoven said.
He said the temperature of staff members is taken as they start their shifts. If they are suspected of having COVID-19, they are taken off duty and told to get tested.
A worker told NorthJersey.com that no in-service training was held to prepare staff, and that workers were originally told not to wear masks, gowns or gloves to avoid scaring residents, according to that site's report.
"Any staff member at any of our homes that works with or comes into contact with a resident that is positive for COVID-19 has the appropriate PPE to wear," Westhoven told New Jersey 101.5. "As national stockpiles and availability of PPE is critical, we ensure in all of our homes that PPE is issued in strict accordance with CDC guidelines in order to protect our staff and residents as well as efficiently manage the stocks in our homes."
He said the staff at all three veterans homes in New Jersey receives training on regular basis, and that it includes infectious disease control.
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Paramus has a capacity of 336 beds. Menlo Park, with 312 beds, has had two COVID-19 deaths, according to Westhoven. A veterans home in Vineland has a total of 120 units which are specialized to a resident's level of needed care, and has had no known coronavirus deaths, he said.
"At the homes folks are older, they have other health issues, we have people that unfortunately pass away all the time. As a nursing home we can have a higher turnover of folks leaving our facility and new ones coming on board," Westhoven said.
He said the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is "doing everything possible to protect those residents."
"Those veterans are a treasure," Westhoven said
Bergen County has the most positive cases of novel coronavirus, with 7,874 reported cases and 314 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the state Department of Health.
Long-term facilities have been hard hit by COVID-19, and as of Tuesday accounted for 10% of the state's reported deaths from the virus, according to Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli.
"There are now 231 long-term care facilities in the state that have reported at least one COVID-19 case," Persichilli said during Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing by state officials.
Gov. Phil Murphy in an executive order required all facilities to communicate the number of positive COVID-19 cases. Family members had reported having trouble getting answers from some facilities.
"We have found that with the phone calls that we've made this week that the majority of the nursing homes are now compliant with advising residents and employees and the loved ones of residents of their status," Persichilli said Wednesday.
Elizabeth mayor Chris Bollwage called for the state Attorney General's office to investigate the deaths of 12 people at the Elizabeth Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in a video on his Facebook page. Another 10 individuals have yet to be tested, according to Bollwage.
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