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New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus provides military veterans and their family members long-term care. The virus has decimated the home and 113 of the 211 still living there have tested positive for the virus. The surge in cases prompted two state representatives to demand a federal inquiry last month.
“The whole place is sick now,” said Mitchell Haber, whose Army veteran father, 91, died at the home last month, according to the New York Times.
“What they should really do is raze it and put a park there," he added. "It’s like a mass shooting.”
More than half of New Jersey's COVID-19 deaths are reportedly linked to long term care facilities.
The Paramus facility had 336 beds, and 285 occupants as of last month, according to NorthJersey.com. It stopped admissions of new residents in March to ensure it had enough space to isolate coronavirus patients, said Kryn Westhoven, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs -- which runs the home and two others in the state.
Relatives said their loved ones were routinely brought in to sit in the common areas at the facility, the paper reported. Little or no information about the virus was shared until deaths were eventually reported, which prompted National Guard medics to be deployed to the home.
“They really kind of held the truth from everyone,” said Stephen Mastropietro, whose 91-year-old father, Thomas, died from coronavirus complications last month.
Westhoven said much of the population was old, with respiratory conditions, including pulmonary disease -- making them vulnerable to severe illness when infected with the virus.
In addition to residents, the virus has also infected nearly 1/4 of staff at the home. At least 86 of the Paramus's 361 facility staff are confirmed to have the coronavirus, while 30 test results are pending.
The state didn't require nursing home staff members to wear masks until March 30.
Robert Little, a regional director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees told the website that management at Paramus failed to adequately provide proper protective equipment for its workers.
“It’s a disgrace in this day and age that a facility like Paramus … [is] not prepared and could not have had everything we needed to protect the employees,” Little said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t fight for those protections. They weren’t there.”
Meanwhile, Westhoven said, "We are doing everything within our ability to protect the staff and residents alike." All staff members are subject to temperature checks and are asked questions to screen for COVID-19 symptoms."
"We are immensely proud of all of our staffers fighting to save lives and protect residents from this virus," he added, according to NorthJersey.com.
The virus has also severely impacted other veterans homes in the state. Of the remaining 190 residents at New Jersey's Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, 90 are currently infected with the virus. At least 55 people at the home have died from coronavirus complications, while 77 of its 445 staff members have tested positive, according to nj.gov.
In response to the virus, more than 150 Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen had been assigned to the Paramus and Menlo Park to assist with the care and security of their residents.
New Jersey has seen more than 138,754 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 9,256 deaths from the virus as of early Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins.