A New Jersey veterans home has been so ravaged by the coronavirus that 72 people have died there and 60 percent of its living residents have contracted the illness, The New York Times reports. One family member of a man who died in the facility was so enraged that he suggested the building should be razed to the ground.
The New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus is a state-run home for former members of the U.S. military. As is the case with other care facilities, such as hospitals or nursing homes, the Paramus facility is at risk of the coronavirus spreading quickly through its vulnerable population. Individuals live in close contact with one another and are at greater risk of developing complications of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, due to their advanced age.
While the virus has torn through care facilities across the country, claiming thousands of lives, the Paramus case is particularly noteworthy. In the space of a few weeks, the illness has managed to decimate the facility's population.
In late March, the care center had 312 residents. The virus then infected 60 percent of its patients, causing the deaths of 72 of them. It is all but certain that more people will succumb to the disease before the pandemic is over.
Of the remaining 211 living residents and their spouses, 120 have either tested positive for the virus or are awaiting results. 1 in 5 staff members are infected as well.
New Jersey's attorney general, Gurbir S. Grewal, wants answers about what happened in the Paramus veterans home. He also wants to know why COVID-19 was able to spread so lethally through other Garden State care facilities.
"For many of these facilities, this was the equivalent of a 500-year flood. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't examine how folks responded when those floodwaters started rising," Grewal said.
Kryn Westhoven, a spokesman for New Jersey's Veterans Affairs Department, noted the residents of the Paramus home were more susceptible to the disease to begin with.
"The population is vulnerable. Older. Dealing with underlying health conditions," he said.
However, Stephen Mastropietro -- whose 91-year-old father, Thomas, died at the home last month -- said the facility "really kind of held the truth from everyone." It's a sentiment shared by Cynthia Petersen's 91-year-old father, who lives in the facility. She stated the pandemic is killing residents of the center at an alarming rate, yet someone found the time to call her about a billing dispute.
Mitchell Haber's 91-year-old father died in the home last month as well, and he is clear about what he thinks should happen to the facility.
"What they should really do is raze it and put a park there,'' he said.