Virus Outbeak New Jersey

Residents of senior public housing wait May 8, 2020, to be tested for coronavirus in Paterson, N.J. The Paterson Housing Authority spent the week making testing available in all of their senior housing buildings with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus amongst their residents.

(The Center Square) – More than half of New Jersey’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred within long-term care facilities, according to recent data – a scenario that has launched a formal investigation and calls for more scrutiny and comprehensive testing.

New Jersey, which is one of 36 states parsing out its demographic data on deaths linked to the pandemic, reported 5,016 deaths within nursing homes, according to the latest sets of figures compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Of the 41 states reporting the number of nursing homes with positive COVID-19 cases, New Jersey was toward the top of the list, with 513 facilities across the state on record. Only one other state, Pennsylvania, reported a higher number of facilities – 549 total through May 14.

The statistical information has prompted responses from a number of state officials, including Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, who has mandated all staff and residents within New Jersey’s long-term care facilities receive testing by May 26.

“We want to collaborate with long-term care facilities to protect their residents and staff,” Perischilli said in a news release, outlining her executive directive. “We all have a role to play in this.”

Compared to the other three-dozen states breaking out comparable data in the first two months of the pandemic, New Jersey outpaced 20 of them with 52 percent of its COVID-19 deaths attributed to nursing homes.

The average among states with comparable data is 41 percent, according to the most recent information tallied through the second full week of May.

As data has been pouring in, a number of state officials, including New Jersey Attorney Gen. Gurbir Grewal have pledged their resources to look more deeply into any possible misconduct within nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Grewal announced a month ago a formal investigation was being launched, in response to the data and firsthand concerns that have come into his office.

“Like the governor and so many other New Jerseyans, I am deeply troubled by the high number of deaths at certain nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the state, especially those with below-average track records for health inspections, staffing and quality of care,” Grewal said in a news release.

Since the launch of the mid-April investigation, Grewal has not formally announced any specific findings, other than to say his office “will follow the facts wherever they go.”

“As is our standard practice, we will not be providing further updates on the investigation unless, and until, we bring an enforcement action or close the case,” Grewal said in the statement.

As of the second week of May, a total of 26,763 positive coronavirus cases have been reported within New Jersey-based long-term care facilities, resulting in a nearly 19-percent fatality rate, according to the most recent data.

Based on comparable data, Minnesota has the highest number of nursing home-linked deaths to COVID-19. Eighty-one percent of its deaths from the pandemic have taken place within long-term care facilities.