NEW JERSEY — Governor Phil Murphy, “outraged” after bodies piled up “at a makeshift morgue” of an Andover nursing home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Thursday that New Jersey’ top officials are looking further into the matter.
Subject of national headlines and first reported by the New Jersey Herald, police found 17 bodies inside a temporary morgue at the Sussex township home — what officials said was the largest long term care facility in the state — after responding to an anonymous tip.
One more was found over the weekend in a shed on the property.
“New Jerseyans living in our long term care facilities deserve to be cared for with respect, compassion and dignity,” Murphy said Thursday during his daily coronavirus briefing. “We can and must do better.”
State Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli noted that of the 362 additional coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, 54 were residents of long term care facilities — considered the most at-risk population to contract COVID-19.
Meanwhile, 4,391 cases were added to the state total: 75,317 — the second-most in the country behind New York.
According to Andover Township Police Chief Eric Danielson, five bodies were discovered Sunday and the other 13 on Monday at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center.
Perschilli announced Thursday that within the two buildings that make up the nursing home, there have been 103 individuals, including staff, who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Since March 30, 19 people have died at the home due to the virus, 107 people have tested positive, including four staffers and as of today, 133 residents there have flu-like or respiratory symptoms with 48 staff members reporting flu-like symptoms.
Outlining a timetable of events, Perschilli said that late Saturday that authorities received a request for 28 body bags at the home — which they complied with early Sunday.
Currently, the facility has been instructed to report every day to the local health department.
Persichilli said the facility confirmed today that the nursing home is properly staffed, and a refrigerated truck is now on site for any future issues.
Efforts are taking place across the statewide to monitor nursing homes reporting a disproportionate amount of cases.
This week, 123 facilities have been prohibited by the state from admitting patients as they have been deemed unable to effectively isolate coronavirus-infected residents.
In the past week, state officials have also distributed over 100,000 N95 masks to said facilities, including 700,000 surgical masks, 7,000 face shields and over 700,000 gloves to long-term care centers.
“I can confirm that the Attorney General’s Office is now investigating the matter [in Andover Township], and we will follow the facts wherever they go,” Gurbir Grewal, the state’s attorney general, said in a statement today. “As is our standard practice, we will not be providing further updates on the investigation unless and until we bring an enforcement action or close the case.”
Grewal said that he is, “deeply troubled by the high number of deaths at certain nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the state, especially those with below-average track records for health inspections, staffing, and quality of care.”