Coronavirus News: Nursing homes hard hit by COVID-19

PARAMUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- A crisis has hit these nursing homes in New York and New Jersey, including at the Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus where 24 residents have died.

Another state-run nursing home in Menlo Park has seen 14 deaths.

In New York, about 25% of New York state's COVID19 deaths are residents of nursing homes and adult care facilities, new data shows. 2722 people residents have died at either a facility or a hospital. The state has updated their data to reflect the deaths in all counties.

Queens accounts for the highest number of total deaths, 603 residents.

RELATED: 6 questions to ask if you have a loved one in a nursing home

More than 3,600 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according to the latest count by The Associated Press.

The numbers are rising fast in New Jersey where more than 5,200 residents of these facilities have tested positive.

That accounts for about ten percent of the state's total long-term care population.

"We're making the assumption that COVID-19 is in most if not all of our nursing homes at this point. We're identifying a number of nursing home beds for the discharges from the hospitals," health commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

Persichilli says one thing they're doing is limiting new admissions to many private nursing homes that have had problems with staffing and a lack of protective equipment.

Experts say nursing home deaths may keep climbing because of chronic staffing shortages that have been made worse by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies and a continued lack of available testing.

And the deaths have skyrocketed despite steps taken by the federal government in mid-March to bar visitors, cease all group activities, and require that every worker be screened for fever or respiratory symptoms at every shift.

But an AP report earlier this month found that infections were continuing to find their way into nursing homes because such screenings didn't catch people who were infected but asymptomatic. Several large outbreaks were blamed on such spreaders, including infected health workers who worked at several different nursing home facilities.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who leads the White House coronavirus response, suggested this past week that as more COVID-19 tests become available, nursing homes should be a top priority.

"We need to really ensure that nursing homes have sentinel surveillance. And what do I mean by that? That we're actively testing in nursing homes, both the residents and the workers, at all times," Birx said.

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With information from The Associated Press

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