From the start of the coronavirus pandemic impacting North America, nursing homes have been hardest and earliest hit, but perhaps none worse than an unfolding nightmare at a large nursing home in New Jersey.
“The call for body bags came late Saturday,” the WSJ begins of the shocking story of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II long-term care facility in the small town of Andover, New Jersey.
Over the weekend an anonymous tip was called into local police reporting that a body had been stored in a shed. Police on the scene subsequently discovered 17 dead people at the facility after COVID-19 swept through the nursing home. No body was actually ever found in the shed, however.
The WSJ describes based on eyewitness testimony a ghastly scene of “17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue intended to hold no more than four people.”
In total over 100 residents are confirmed for COVID-19, with another more than 180 residents and staff reportedly showing respiratory and flu-like symptoms typical of the disease.
“The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus,” WSJ continues.
After a police investigation, which as of Thursday afternoon has reached the attention of the governor, who has also vowed to open an investigation into how bodies were allowed to be piled up – and in many cases families kept in the dark as the fate of their loved ones – Andover’s police chief Eric Danielson acknowledged “They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring.”
Andover Subacute is New Jersey’s largest licensed facility, with over 700 beds for patients, according to state figures. When the crisis was first uncovered state authorities reportedly mulled sending in the National Guard to assist.
Once local staff were overwhelmed and feared outside help wouldn’t come, at a moment the entire tri-state area is in full crisis mode as now the global COVID-19 epicenter, a staff member of Andover Subacute & Rehab Center Two wrote on Facebook Monday: “To all the people calling into the governor’s office, the congressman’s office to help us tell them WE NEED HELP.”
That post has since been deleted as the facility assists in a state investigation, and ahead of likely legal fallout.
“I feel so helpless,” one family member of a resident of the facility wrote on Facebook on Tuesday according to the WSJ report. “I feel like everyone is going to get Covid. What do we do?”