HEALTH

NJ nursing homes keeping visitors out in attempt to contain COVID-19

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

As of Friday afternoon, there’ve been three deaths and another three reported cases of coronavirus in New Jersey’s nursing’s homes so far. It’s led the state Department of Health to require a stop to visitation at all nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The Dellridge Health and Rehabilitation Center in Paramus is part of the Family of Caring health care system that has locations around the state. But many are in Bergen County, which has seen the worst spread of COVID-19 than any other county in the state.

Karen Davidson, chief nursing officer at the Dellridge Health and Rehabilitation Center, said they stopped visitation almost a week ago on March 11.

“No visitation by anyone really outside of medical staff, and they’re screened at the front door. If anyone has symptoms, temperature, any signs, they’re not allowed to work,” she said.

She said that taking precautions is necessary because nursing home staff often work in multiple locations and their population of seniors is especially vulnerable.

New Jersey’s trying to avoid the horrific scenario that played out in Seattle, where more than half the state’s deaths were residents of a nursing home that was infected by staff who unknowingly brought the virus inside.

But the precautions are having an impact on residents and their families, like Debbie O’Connell and her mother-in-law Connie.

“There are times she’s lonely, sometimes she gets down,” Debbie said.

Debbie and her family can’t go inside, so they call regularly, and they improvise.

“We’ve also gone outside her window and wave to her, been on the phone with her, and we chat with her and try to make her laugh and encourage her so she can see us,” she said.

But inside, staff are working tirelessly to stay equipped with the necessary masks, gloves and shields.

“We’ve also seen an increase in pricing, which that has to be put aside right now. Whatever it takes to get supplies is what we have to do,” said Davidson.

They have enough personal protective equipment for at least the next few weeks but there’s real concern that they’ll be among the hospitals and health care facilities all clamoring for the same gear. In the meantime they are trying to keep patients spirits up while they work to keep the virus out.