COVID-19: 37 percent of deaths in Essex County linked to long-term care facilities
BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
New Jersey’s long-term care facilities continue to be hit hard by COVID-19, with the number of positive cases and deaths resulting from the virus continuing to climb, according to state health officials.
Half of the state’s COVID-19 death toll thus far is related to long-term care facilities, said Gov. Phil Murphy at his May 5 debriefing. With COVID-19 striking 509 facilities throughout the state, resulting in 22,603 residents and staff testing positive and 4,151 deaths, Murphy said it has been the state’s biggest challenge in its fight against the virus.
In Essex County, about 37 percent of COVID reported deaths so far have been related to a long-term care facility.
Although Murphy has been saying from the onset of the pandemic that long-term facilities nationwide have been hit hard by the disease, officials announced today that New Jersey could be a leader and model in setting up infectious disease protocols for the future.
On April 16, the state launched an investigation into long-term care facilities prompted by the high number of deaths related to COVID-19, reports of bodies piling up inside a nursing home morgue in Andover, staff members reporting insufficient personal protection equipment and family members being left in the dark about the number of COVID cases and their loved ones’ status.
“We are not alleging any misconduct,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal. “It’s an investigation to see what went wrong, what gaps have we found that would set future policy.”
Grewal said they would be investigating however to see if “corners had been and if profits were placed over patients.”
In Essex County, 46 facilities have reported 2,086 cases and 473 deaths related COVID-19 in long-term care facilities to date.
Today, the state launched a web portal for family members to report any alleged misconduct at the facilities and to present evidence of such.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said on March 18 the state began requiring safety protocols at long-term care facilities such as limiting visitors, screening staff before entering, increased testing, mandating reporting of any COVID-19 positive patients and separating COVID patients and staff from the rest of the residents.
A recent study of 16 facilities and 4,000 residents and staff members in southern New Jersey resulted in 9.7 percent of the staff and 24.4 percent of the residents testing positive for the virus. Most were asymptomatic, Persichilli said. Any patients who tested negative will be retested, she added.
The state is expected to test residents and staff at another 74 facilities next week.
Murphy reported 2,494 new COVID-19 positive cases today up from the 1,621 reported yesterday, bringing the total to 130,593, and 334 new deaths, upping the state’s total to 8,244. The lower number positive cases and of deaths at 45 reported yesterday were due to a state network outage experienced on Sunday, officials said.
Last night, 5,328 people were reported hospitalized due to COVID-19. The number of patients in critical care and on ventilators has dropped to 1,534 in critical care and 1,169 on ventilators.
Patients released yesterday numbered 232, while 385 were admitted.
Monday night, Montclair officials reported the confirmed number of COVID-19 cases in Montclair increased from Sunday's count of 374 to 381; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remained at 44. Tuesday’s numbers have not yet been released.
Essex County is now seeing a doubling rate of cases at more than 30 days. Essex County officials reported 97 new cases today, up from the 78 reported yesterday, now totaling 14,891. Deaths reported increased by 36, now totaling 1,324. The county’s reporting of lower numbers yesterday, could have been affected by the network outage as well.
Of the 257,587 total test results throughout New Jersey thus far, the positivity rate is now down to about 39 percent.
Essex County long term care facilities numbers: