25 coronavirus deaths at North Jersey nursing home, 90% of residents have symptoms

Posted Apr 17, 2020

As the coronavirus ravages nursing homes across New Jersey, the virus has overrun a home in Wayne, leaving 25 dead and another 105 residents with symptoms — nearly 90% of all people housed at the North Jersey facility.

Of those showing symptoms at Atrium Post Acute Care of Wayne, 80 have tested positive so far, according to Hope Horwitz, a spokeswoman for Atrium Health & Senior Living, also in Wayne.

“We are working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 and have many plans to keep the virus at bay,” Horwitz said in an email Thursday.

Horwitz also confirmed that 47 staff members are symptomatic and 17 of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Experts predicted that the coronavirus would be especially deadly if it infiltrated nursing homes, and that prediction has held true in New Jersey, New York and other states hit hard by the virus.

State and federal authorities have advised facilities to block visitors and to require universal masking and screen employees for symptoms to prevent them unwittingly spreading the virus among residents. But that has not stopped the virus from taking hold at 394 long-term care facilities. Some are dealing with staff shortages as workers get sick or are afraid to come to work. Several workers told NJ Advance Media they don’t have the proper protective gear.

State officials said Friday that over 9,000 cases have been reported at the facilities across the state, or more than 15% of the state’s 60,000 nursing home residents. The Department of Health reported 1,530 deaths at long-term care facilities as of Friday.

Other Atrium facilities in the state have not escaped the virus either, reporting double-digit deaths at post acute care facilities in Park Ridge and Princeton, in addition to Wayne. But Horwitz said that all its facilities have taken numerous steps to stop the spread, including stopping all communal activities, switching to disposable utensils and napkins and requiring staff and residents to practice social distancing.

“To continue providing top-notch care, we are taking the temperature of all staff every four hours (twice a shift),” Horwitz said. “We are working closely with the Department of Health and will continue to grow our precautions as needed and as recommended.”

A few miles away at Atrium Post Acute Care of Wayneview, there have been 26 positive residents, eight of whom died, Horwitz said.

Atrium Post Acute Care of Princeton, which first reported a coronavirus outbreak in the end of March, has seen 82 of its 103 residents develop coronavirus symptoms. Horwitz said 41 of them tested positive and 13 have died.

Of the staff at the facility, 35 were symptomatic and were ordered to quarantine, with 11 of them testing positive for the virus.

At Atrium Post Acute Care of Park Ridge, a total of 33 deaths were reported but only 19 have been due to COVID-19, Horwitz said. Eighty of the facility’s 101 residents are symptomatic, including 12 who tested positive and 11 who have been hospitalized.

The Atrium Senior Living facility in Park Ridge, an assisted living facility, has had 17 positive cases, including four who died, four who are hospitalized and nine who were transferred to Atrium facilities in Woodbury and Livingston to be treated. There are no active cases as of Friday, Horwitz said.

The nursing home chain has started to accept positive patients into two of its facilities in Woodbury and Livingston, as part of a Department of Health plan to move infected residents to facilities that have the space, staff and protective equipment to care for them in isolated units away from healthy residents.

The Woodbury and Livingston homes each have special COVID-19 units with staff that work there exclusively.

“Those associates do not mingle to the other floors,” owner Alex Markowits told NJ Advance Media. “From nurses all the way down to housekeepers. That’s been the policy from day one."

The 62-bed COVID-19 wing in the Woodbury facility has 52 patients — some of whom were transferred from Park Ridge — and Horwitz said many are improving.

Forty-eight residents who already lived at the home have tested positive, and another four are symptomatic, she said. Three have died, Horwitz said. One staff member has tested positive and another one is symptomatic, she said.

In Livingston, Horwitz said, the floor designated for positive patients is about half full with 32 residents. Of the residents who already lived in the facility, she said 25 tested positive for the virus and six have died.

Of the staff in Livingston, eight tested positive another 13 are symptomatic and quarantined.

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