New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has ordered an investigation into a Sussex County nursing home where authorities recently discovered 17 bodies in the facility's morgue.
Officers responded Monday night to the Andover Subacute and Rehab Center II after receiving a tip that there was a dead body being stored in a shed on the premises.
When they arrived, they found the corpse had been removed from the shed and placed in the home's overcrowded morgue, along with more than a dozen others.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Murphy said he was furious "that bodies were allowed to pile up" at the facility. He announced that the state attorney general's office would investigate the Andover home, as well as any nursing facilities where there are "disproportionate" numbers of deaths in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are outraged by this," he said. "This is completely unacceptable...the attorney general is looking at this. This is completely, utterly, not only outrageous, but unacceptable."
Of 68 recent deaths at the small-town facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, two were nurses and 26 were patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Police could not confirm whether the 17 bodies they found Monday had died because of COVID-19 or other illnesses.
Police Chief Eric Danielson told CNN that staff at the home "was clearly overwhelmed and probably short-staffed."
Of the remaining patients at the two-building facility, 76 have tested positive for the virus and more are likely infected. Additionally, 41 staff members, including an administrator, are currently out sick with COVID-19.
With their concentration of highly-vulnerable individuals, nursing homes around the country have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, especially in New Jersey and in New York — the two hardest-hit states, which banned nursing home visitation weeks ago.
Nursing homes in the pandemic have been likened to dry grass surrounded by wildfire; a single ember — just one transmission of the virus — can sweep through the entire population.
New Jersey has attributed more than 3,500 deaths to COVID-19 and confirmed more than 75,300 cases of the virus.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that his state was sending 100 ventilators to New Jersey as the state wrestles with a peak of critical COVID-19 cases.
Murphy acknowledged that the Garden State has now lost more residents to the pandemic respiratory disease in the past six weeks than it did in the entirety of World War II.
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