National Guard coming: NJ’s worst Covid-19 outbreak strikes Andover nursing home, scene of 2020 disaster

Andover. The National Guard will report to assist at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, formerly Andover Subacute II, which has 169 residents and 101 staff members testing positive for Covid-19.

| 05 Jan 2022 | 11:38

The nursing home that captured nationwide attention for its catastrophic number of Covid-19 deaths is amid an active outbreak, the worst of any long-term care facility in the state.

As the pandemic enters its third year, Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center — formerly Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II — has 169 residents and 101 staff members testing positive for the virus, according to data released by New Jersey on Monday, Jan. 3. On Wednesday morning, the Sussex County commissioners reported that New Jersey has agreed to their request to send the National Guard to assist at the facility with “maintaining infection control protocols and other duties.”

“The staff at these facilities have been particularly hard hit by the latest Covid variant,” said Fasano in the commissioners’ statement. “We believed it was prudent to get them the help they needed before there was a crisis.”

The commissioners say the deployment is the result of a series of discussions among county and state health officials, nursing home operators, and their staff. “The state agreed to deploy the National Guard and the nursing home operators agreed to take the offered assistance,” Fasano said. He said will make a more detailed report at tonight’s meeting, Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 6 p.m.

Woodland has 543 beds and 475 staff members, according to data filed with Sussex County. That means at least 27 percent of its resident/staff population has tested positive for Covid-19.

The nursing home underwent a rebranding since it was afflicted by mass deaths and an overpacked morgue in the spring of 2020, at the peak of the pandemic’s first wave. The name changed, but the ownership has not: Chaim Scheinbaum and Louis Schwartz are still listed as co-owners.

The Sussex County commissioners have since the spring 2020 disaster been demanding answers from Gov. Phil Murphy. “A yearlong investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General into Andover Subacute and other nursing homes has produced no news and the Murphy administration is still stonewalling Open Public Records Act requests for documents related to the operation of the nursing homes during the pandemic,” said a Dec. 29 statement by the commissioners.”

Sinai Post-Acute in Newark, a 420-bed facility, has the second-highest number of infected residents in New Jersey, reporting 97 positive cases, or 23 percent. In Covid infections among staff, Woodland is followed by Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, a 300-bed facility in Cumberland County with 83 staff members testing positive.

When contacted by phone and email, representatives from Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center declined to comment.

The elderly and frail people who live in long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable to Covid. “Someone who is 75 to 84 years old has about six times the chance of being killed by the virus as those between 50 and 65, for example, while the risk goes to about 15 times as high for those above 85,” The New York Times reported in December.

Outbreak climbs to 270 cases

New Jersey’s long-term care facility outbreak data reports confirmed cases. On December 27, Woodland reported 53 cases among staff and 57 among residents; it was still the largest facility outbreak statewide at the time.

Over the course of one week, 160 new cases were confirmed across residents and staff.

More than 100 staff members infected

Newly updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control now allow health care facilities to implement “crisis capacity strategies,” permitting employees to return to work even if they are symptomatic and Covid-positive. According to CDC guidelines, facilities are supposed to do this only “as a last resort,” when staffing shortages are so significant that the facility is unable to provide safe patient care.

Facilities should first attempt “contingency capacity strategies,” such as adjusting schedules, canceling all non-essential procedures and visits, having boosted employees with confirmed exposures continue to work, and allowing staff with mild to moderate illness to return at least five days after symptoms first appeared, 24 hours fever-free without the use of medication, and symptoms have improved.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original to include the commissioners’ National Guard announcement.

Average statewide vaccination rates at N.J. long term care facilities:
Residents: 92.8% vaccinated, 79.1% boosted
Staff: 87% vaccinated, 42.1% boosted
Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center vaccination rates:
Residents: 82.5% vaccinated, 52.4% boosted
Staff: 64.5% vaccinated, 0% boosted