In a morgue designed to only hold four bodies, police said they found 17 bodies piled together at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, one of New Jersey’s largest nursing homes. Following a request to police for body bags Sunday, an anonymous tip alleged bodies were being stored in a shed on Monday, The New York Times reported. Police followed the tip to discover no bodies in the shed, but 17 bodies in the small morgue.
“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” Eric C. Danielson, the police chief in Andover, said. The facility has reported at least 68 recent deaths between both residents and nurses, 26 of those who died tested positive for coronavirus, officials said. According to The Times, a total of 76 patients at the nursing home and 41 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Thirteen of the 17 bodies discovered Monday were moved to a refrigerated truck outside a nearby hospital, and a funeral home has made arrangements for the other four, Danielson said.
According to NBC News, local officials say the nursing home claimed infected residents were being housed separately to reduce the spread of the virus. Family members and staff alike fear for the health and safety of residents and are reaching out to local officials for help. “The challenge we’re having with all of these nursing homes is once it spreads, it’s like a wildfire,” New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer told The Times. “It’s very hard to stop it.”
"Every single day the number keeps going up. I'm hearing from so many local residents and people who have families there, who are scared, for an update. They're worried about their loved ones, so we're trying to provide information to work with the facility but it's been very difficult," Gottheimer said.
In addition, nursing homes, like other healthcare facilities nationwide, are experiencing a lack of personal protective equipment or PPE. Local organizations and state residents have been gathering supplies to donate to the nursing home through a Facebook page and website Sparta Helps Healthcare Heroes.
Andover Subacute is not the only nursing home struggling to contain the virus. According to NBC News, almost every nursing home in the state has at least one confirmed case of coronavirus. Nursing homes nationwide are at risk as the pandemic spreads; a lack of supplies, sufficient health care, and testing has led to nursing homes and long-term healthcare facilities to be most vulnerable. In New York, more than 2,700 deaths have occurred at nursing homes or adult care facilities.
As of Wednesday, the number of deaths in New Jersey resulting from COVID-19 reached over 3,000; the state saw an increase of more than 300 from Tuesday, NBC News reported. Of the 351 coronavirus-related deaths reported Wednesday in New Jersey, 45 were residents of long-term care facilities including nursing homes. Nursing homes across the country are not only running out of space to properly store bodies but are lacking supplies to sufficiently care for victims as the virus spreads quickly in their facilities.