SOMERVILLE, NJ - Anxious to escort their brother to the next stop on his recovery from the coronavirus, police cruisers and vans from County Corrections Departments throughout New Jersey formed a line on Rehill Avenue outside Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/Somerset early Monday morning, hours before Sgt. Andrew Crooks was to be discharged.

Crooks, a North Plainfield resident and Essex County Corrections officer was just as anxious to be on his way, having spent 49 days at the hospital fighting for his life, hooked to a respirator for more than half of that time battling the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Tony Cava, president and CEO of RWJUH/Somerset, said the average hospital stay for those patients who survive the coronavirus is 14-18 days.

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Crooks has been pronounced fit enough to continue with his recovery at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Marlton, which is where the escort of Corrections vehicles was headed

It's a special day at RWJUH/Somerset anytime a COVID-19 patient is discharged, according to Cava.

The number of those COVID-19 patients being discharged is now outnumbering admissions; on May 4th, the hospital sent home its 500th COVID patient.

But Monday's farewell will be long remembered, thanks to Crooks' support network of fellow corrections officers, the honor guard, thankful family members, the nurses and medical staff at the hospital - and his fraternity brothers from Omega Psi Phi.

Wearing the purple and gold colors and Greek letters of the fraternity on their shirts and jackets, the brothers greeted the Fairleigh Dickinson University alum by flapping their hands alongside their heads to simulate dog ears, and barking in unison. Crooks didn't bark, but he did salute his brothers with flapping hands.

Wearing the requisite mask, and a large blue hoodie reading Essex County Corrections Strong, Crooks was wheeled on a hospital bed from his room onto an elevator, and through the lobby of the hospital before coming to a stop outside. The ceremonial "Clap Out" lasted more than 10 minutes.

Click on this link to view a video highlighting Crooks' discharge from the hospital: https://vimeo.com/417265486/c9276cb5d0