All 94 residents of New Jersey nursing home presumed positive for coronavirus

Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic and immunogenetic expert suggests nursing homes need better training and practices. USA TODAY

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. – The entire resident population of a New Jersey nursing home is being transferred to a similar facility nearby after an outbreak of coronavirus among residents and staff, CareOne and New Jersey Department of Health officials said Wednesday.

The transfer operation was requested by state health officials after assessing the status of St. Joseph’s Senior Nursing Home in Woodbridge, 20 miles south of Newark, where 24 of the 94 patients tested positive for COVID-19. The virus also spread to their caregivers, CareOne executives said, leaving the St. Joseph’s facility severely short-staffed.

In addition to the 24 confirmed cases, all 70 of the other St. Joseph's residents are now presumptive positive, officials said.

CareOne and St. Joseph’s had no prior relationship but "immediately began working with the state and local officials," CareOne Executive Vice President Lizzy Straus said. "The state determined it was in the best interest of both the COVID-19-positive residents and those not impacted by the virus, to transfer all patients to another facility."

New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday: "Unfortunately, we’ve been monitoring the organization since Friday evening, and we are working with the sisters that own (the facility) and take care of the residents for an orderly transition.

"The sisters told us on Friday that 12 of their employees were home, feeling ill with respiratory symptoms," Persichilli said in the news briefing. "The sisters were working around the clock to take care of almost 90 residents. I don’t know how many were there, but when they called us, I can tell you that it was an extreme situation."

Persichilli said her department reached out to other long-term care facilities in the region to find short-term relief for the sisters at St. Joseph's.

"I can tell you that the collaboration was extraordinary," she said. "They were able to get nurses and aides to go in over the weekend."

CareOne, which operates 32 post-acute nursing and assisted living facilities in New Jersey, came up with a plan to bring the St. Joseph's patients to a COVID-19-free location in Whippany, New Jersey. 

"Reviewing the availability of rooms in our facilities, we were able to temporarily relocate our residents from CareOne at Hanover in Whippany to nearby CareOne facilities, enabling us to accommodate the St. Joseph patients," Straus said.

To accommodate the incoming patients, 61 residents of the Whippany facility had to be moved to CareOne facilities elsewhere. Those transferred out were all moved by Tuesday night.

The COVID-19-positive patients will be separated from the presumptive-positive patients in Whippany.

During another press briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy gave a "shoutout" to the collaboration between public and private entities that is easing the burden of the sisters at St. Joseph's.

"This started to unfold on Friday night and it was a battle over the whole weekend," he said. "We discussed it privately yesterday. It’s come to a boil clearly now and the certain facilities – as usual, it’s New Jersey. When in doubt we pull together and I want to give CareOne a shoutout if that’s OK with you."


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