By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

In late August, Montclair health officials began reporting an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the township, up to a high of five new cases on Aug. 29, after a summer in which the numbers either remained flat or increased by one or two a day.

The health officials reported that there have been 44 new cases since Aug. 27, and that at least 15 of them were at Montclair Manor, a long-term-care facility. 

State Department of Health data show that as of Sept. 14, Montclair Manor had recorded 23 cases of COVID-19 among residents and five cases among staff. Two of the residents have died, according to the department. 

Out of 10 facilities in the township, Montclair Manor is the only one currently experiencing an outbreak, according to the state data. Eight other Essex County long-term-care facilities also have outbreaks now.

Roughly half of New Jersey’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths have been associated with long-term-care facilities: 7,135 lab-confirmed total deaths. As of Sept. 15, Department of Health data indicated that long-term care facilities had reported 6,754 resident deaths and 121 staff deaths. 

Across the state, 24,938 long-term-care residents and 13,409 staff members have contracted the virus since March, a total of 38,347 cases associated with the facilities. Of those, 5,073 are current cases among residents, and 3,104 are current staff cases.

“(Montclair Manor) was provided NJDOH guidance when the pandemic first began, but upon notification of the first case, the Montclair Health Department provided all updated information and guidance to the facility for prevention measures including proper PPE, cohorting, disinfecting, etc.,” township Health Department Director Sue Portuese and Nursing Director Margaret Brodowski said. Township officials did not respond to a query on when the first case at Montclair Manor was reported. 

Portuese and Brodowski said the facility had no previous outbreaks. 

Attempts to reach Montclair Manor management for comment were unsuccessful, with staff saying management was unavailable.

As of Sept. 10, state officials reported 677 outbreaks at 159 facilities across the state since the pandemic began.

The New Jersey Department of Health states that an outbreak may be present in a long-term-care facility if one or more of the following conditions are present: 

  • Several residents who exhibit similar respiratory symptoms are in the same room or same wing, or attended a common activity. 
  • Two or more residents develop respiratory illness within 72 hours of each other. 
  • There is an increase in employee absences due to similar respiratory symptoms.

In the spring, four Montclair long-term-care facilities had COVID-19 outbreaks, including Family of Caring, Gates Manor, Horizon Manor North and Horizon Manor South. 

Family of Caring was the hardest-hit in the early months of the pandemic. On March 7, a visitor was asked to leave Family of Caring after the visitor was found to be coughing. That visitor later tested positive for COVID-19.

The facility’s executive administrator, John Cofrancesco, died on March 19 at age 52. 

As of April 21, Family of Caring had seen 36 cases and 14 deaths. Gates Manor had the second-highest number of any Montclair facility as of that day, with 24 cases and eight deaths recorded. Horizon Manor North had nine cases and one death as of that day, and Horizon Manor South had seven cases and two deaths. 

The state Department of Health ordered all long-term-care facilities to ban visitors on March 19. Visitations were allowed to resume, subject to strict social distancing and personal protective equipment requirements, starting with outdoor spaces in June. In August, indoor visits were allowed.