Coronavirus deaths keep rising in New Jersey nursing homes … and nobody knows why
05/11/2020 // Tracey Watson // Views

Official reports indicate that close to 1.4 million Americans have now been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and over 80,000 have succumbed to the disease. Nonetheless, experts believe that these figures do not reflect the full extent of the epidemic in the United States. The true numbers are believed to be far higher.

Americans from every age, ethnicity and socio-economic status have been affected by COVID-19, but as has been the case worldwide, residents of long-term care facilities have been particularly hard hit by the disease in the United States.

Now, state officials in New Jersey have expressed alarm at the number of coronavirus patients and fatalities in such facilities in the state, and family members insist the problem is far worse than officials are revealing. (Related: US nursing homes devastated by coronavirus outbreak: Infection and death counts rise as vulnerable elderly get exposed to the virus.)

True mortality rate unknown

As reported by Patch, a shocking 17 percent of residents diagnosed with COVID-19 in New Jersey veterans’ homes, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died – a mortality rate four times higher than the state’s overall percentage.

But health officials are now admitting that the true mortality rate in these facilities is likely far higher than 17 percent, and the loved ones of victims are demanding more transparency about the true levels of contamination their family members are being exposed to.

Frustrated family members and friends complain about a lack of information and communication from the directors of care facilities, and government officials have admitted that they are right to complain.


"There's no question there's an unevenness, and that would be charitable, of communication to loved ones, to next-of-kins about the state of play," Governor Phil Murphy recently acknowledged.

"We've heard far too many stories where (people say), 'I called and no one picked up,' or, 'I called and no one answered.' It's not just frustrating for us, but it's crushing for a loved one," he added.

Patch reports that a doctor is demanding answers after her uncle died from COVID-19 complications in a Newark nursing home recently. Family members had tried to get through to the home to get information about the man’s health status multiple times before he was moved from the facility to Saint Michael’s Hospital, but never received a single response.

Overwhelmed staff members at New Jersey facilities report that they simply do not have capacity to care for the large number of infected residents and still keep in touch with loved ones. (Related: Thousands dying of coronavirus in nursing homes, but government isn’t keeping track.)

Patch reported:

Some facilities such as Ocean Crest Pointe Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center initially reported nine cases and then doubled their numbers just hours later when they were reported on April 22. Now the facility is saying there are 55 cases and one death.

Then there's the Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, where more than 80 percent of the residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. At the facility, at least 241 people have been diagnosed and more than 50 have died. But only days ago, the facility reported that there were fewer than 190 cases.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli has promised to ramp up efforts to ensure nursing home staff have sufficient personal protective equipment and are properly equipped to handle infection control and other issues.

She has also repeatedly stressed the need for staff members, residents and their families to be kept informed about the number of fatalities in long-term care facilities, but there are concerns that this is still not taking place. Meanwhile, helpless family members continue to wait anxiously to hear if their loved ones are sick, terrified that they are not being properly protected against this deadly disease.

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