The coronavirus devastated New Jersey’s nursing homes this spring, killing thousands of residents and prompting a raft of measures to better protect the state’s most vulnerable population.
Since that time, long-term care facilities say they have stockpiled personal protective equipment. They’ve developed protocols for testing residents and staff and isolating those who are sickened. Visitors continue to be limited by state regulators, amid fears the virus will be reintroduced as families reunite with their loved ones.
Yet despite those precautions, the coronavirus continues to creep into the state’s nursing homes, assisted-living centers and other senior facilities, even among those that managed to eradicate their original outbreaks, Department of Health data shows.
Across New Jersey, at least 102 long-term care facilities saw new outbreaks this summer or fall after being declared COVID-19 free, according to a review by NJ Advance Media. Included in those were 11 facilities in which residents or staffers died in the new contagions.
That points to a somber reality as New Jersey grapples with a concerning resurgence of coronavirus in recent weeks: Even as nursing homes have had nearly seven months of experience combating the virus, many remain unable to keep it wholly at bay. Still, those outbreaks are proving less deadly and easier to contain than in March or April, when underprepared facilities were floored by a pandemic that caught them, the state and the country flat-footed, flooding New Jersey’s hospitals and morgues.
On Friday, a union that represents 8,000 nursing home workers in New Jersey expressed concerns about a second wave of the disease and the impacts it could carry.
“Nursing home operators need to be taking every precaution, including giving frontline workers access to n95 masks, gowns and surgical masks before, not after, new outbreaks emerge,” said Milly Silva, the executive vice president of