An anonymous tip led to the discovery of 17 bodies crowded into a four-person morgue at one of New Jersey’s largest nursing homes.
Police found the bodies this week at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II in Sussex County, in northern New Jersey, Rep. Josh Gottheimer confirmed to NBC New York.
The discovery by Andover Police, who did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on Thursday, was first reported by The New York Times.
“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” Eric C. Danielson, the town’s chief of police, told the Times.
Rep. Gottheimer said he was contacted by an administrator at the nursing home who was requesting more body bags just before the discovery of the bodies.
“She called and said, ‘We’re overwhelmed here,’” he said on a Skype call, adding the woman who called was sick herself and said “so many” staff members at the home were sick.
The 17 people discovered in the small morgue bring the number of deaths linked to the center up to 68, Gottheimer said. Twenty-six of those who died tested positive for COVID-19, and two staff members are among the deceased. 76 patients at the home are currently sick with the virus, as are 41 staff members, according to the Times.
Local officials told NBC New York that the nursing home said it was separating infected patients from healthy ones. The Andover facility could not be reached by NBC News on Thursday morning,
“Once one person in the home gets sick it spreads pretty quickly in nursing homes,” Rep. Gottheimer said. “We’re seeing this around the state.”
The Congressman said his office as well as state emergency services and the department of health are working to get the Andover facility what it needs, which he said is made difficult by “huge nursing shortages” across New Jersey. His office reached out to FEMA and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on Wednesday to see if federal help is available.
The discovery at the Andover home comes as 5,670 people have died from coronavirus at nursing homes in the U.S., according to an NBC News analysis. There are 3,466 long-term care facilities in 39 states with known coronavirus cases.