Coronavirus deaths in New Jersey care homes disproportionately high
05/06/2020 // Cassie B. // Views

Concern is growing in New Jersey as the state’s nursing homes are seeing disproportionate numbers of coronavirus-related fatalities.

So far, at least 17 percent of people in nursing homes and other types of long-term care facilities who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state have died. This is four times the percentage of total fatalities that has been seen statewide in the population overall.

Making matters worse is the belief among health officials that the true numbers are quite possibly significantly higher. The numbers are self-reported by facilities, and there are some doubts about just how accurate they are. The state’s health commissioner has said that they will compare this against death certificates to ensure proper counting.

Families of those in nursing homes have been expressing outrage over their inability to get in touch with their loved ones or get any kind of information about what is going on behind closed doors, including the level of contamination or news on any outbreaks in a given facility.

Governor Phil Murphy stated: “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.” He added that they’ve been hearing lots of complaints that no one is answering the phones at these homes.

State surveyors have been tasked with investigating nursing homes and ensuring they’re equipped to handle the outbreak. They’ll be looking at issues like personal protective equipment and infection control. Meanwhile, the Department of Health has said that it has repeatedly reminded care homes that they are obligated to keep families, staff and residents updated on case and fatality numbers, but they’ve received reports that many aren’t doing so.


Here’s a look at the state of some New Jersey care homes:

New Jersey Veteran’s Memorial Home in Paramus: This facility tops the state in terms of coronavirus case and death numbers. Here, more than 80 percent of residents have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 50 have died and at least 241 have been diagnosed, despite claims by the facility that there were less than 190 cases.

Ocean Crest Pointe Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center: Nine cases were initially reported, but the facility doubled its numbers just hours later during reporting on April 22. There are now said to be 55 cases and one death there.

Crane’s Mill Retirement Home in West Caldwell has seen 18 coronavirus deaths. Administrators there say they’ve been taking steps to protect their 365 residents as well as staff members from the virus.

New Vista Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Newark came under fire from a California doctor after her epileptic and autistic uncle, a resident of the facility, died of coronavirus. In the days leading up to his April 13 hospital admission, family members had tried to call the facility several times; none of their calls were returned. Journalists following the story also had trouble getting in touch, and when they did, the person answering the phone had “no comment.” Moreover, the New Jersey Department of Health was unable to complete a report for the facility in its first round of coronavirus counts because their calls also went unanswered. Recent statistics show 41 confirmed cases and 21 deaths there.

Last week, the state reported 16,277 cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, a rise over the 14,579 reported the previous week. Deaths climbed in just three days from 2,696 to 2,973. All told, around three of every ten COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey are occurring in long-term care facilities – and that’s only if you take into account cases that have been confirmed by lab testing. The true number of coronavirus deaths in care homes and elsewhere is likely far higher than anything we're hearing.

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