Inside the Lakewood COVID-19 death toll, Here’s what 44% of those who died had in common


LAKEWOOD, NJ –  Lakewood Township is ranked highest among Ocean County deaths per town during the COVID-19 pandemic, but 44% of all deaths in that town had one common denominator.  They were residents or patients in the township’s eight assisted living facilities.

COVID-19 has taken a deadly toll in New Jersey.  At last tally, over 15,000 have died, including approximately 2,000 cases listed by the state as “probable”.  Of those 15,000,  nearly half, 6,572 of them occurred in New Jersey’s nursing homes and long-term assisted living facilities.   85 of those deaths occurred in Lakewood Township and many were in assisted living facilities that were forced legally by the state to admit infected patients into their facilities.

On March 29th, Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli, who needs no introduction issued an order to force nursing homes and assisted living facilities to take in the elderly who had contracted the virus.

You can read that order here.

“During this global health emergency, all post-acute care settings must comply with the expedited receipt of patients/residents discharging from hospitals. Patients/residents are deemed appropriate for discharge to the post-acute care setting upon a determination by the hospital physician or designee that the resident is medically stable for return. A rapid review of necessary resources to provide adequate, safe care in the post-acute care setting is imperative during this time,” the directive read. “Hospital discharge planners must confirm to the post-acute care setting, by telephone, that the patient/resident is medically stable for discharge. Comprehensive discharge instructions must be provided by the hospital prior to the transport of a patient/resident to the post-acute care setting.”

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The directive ordered that no patient or resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the post-acute care setting solely based on a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

“Persons under investigation for COVID-19 who have undergone testing in the hospital shall not be discharged until results are available,” Persichilli ordered.  “Post-acute care facilities are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized patient/resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

That was the spark that led to the eventual deaths of 6,458 seniors in assisted living facilities,  several hundred in state-operated veterans living facilities and 113 nursing home staff members.

Recently, the Congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis sent a scathing letter to Governors who sent infected elderly COVID-19 patients to nursings.  Those governors included Andrew Cuomo of New York, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Newsome of California, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Phil Murphy here in New Jersey.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the elderly, especially those living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,” the letters read. “We write seeking information, at a granular level, about the science and information used to inform your decision to mandate nursing homes and long-term care facilities admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals.”

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“Just about the worst possible thing to do is knowingly introduce coronavirus to the most vulnerable populations, yet that’s exactly what several states did by mandating nursing homes accept infected patients,” Select Subcommittee member Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) said. “These misguided policies deserve close scrutiny, and the leaders who put them in place have a lot of tough questions to answer. Now is not the time to look the other way while placing blame for this crisis on states that are taking a measured, responsible approach to reopening our economy and protecting our communities.”

“The vast majority of those dying in nursing homes are located in the states that blew off the President’s direction and the CDC’s guidance,” said Select Subcommittee member Mark Green (R-Tenn.). “The governors of these states must provide details about their decisions to send contagious COVID19 patients into nursing homes. The American people, and their loved ones, deserve answers.”

On March 13, 2020, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance “For Infection Control and Prevention of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Nursing Homes.”

The March 13 guidance said that “nursing homes should admit any individual that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present” only if the nursing home can follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) quarantining guidance

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Despite these warnings, however, Governor Murphy and Perischilli issued guidance and executive orders forcing nursing homes to admit people with the virus, thereby encouraging the spread to those vulnerable populations.

In Lakewood Township, 188 people have died of COVID-19, according to the Ocean County Health Department.

377 residents in the township’s assisted living facilities were diagnosed as COVID-19 positive.  136 staff members were tested positive. 84 residents died and there was one death among staff members.  That translates to 44% of all Lakewood Township COVID-19 deaths occurring in those two facilities.  2,621 people in Lakewood have been tested positive for COVID-19.

Hearthstone Estates Assisted Living Lakewood 2 2
Lakewood Courtyard Lakewood 11 8 1
Harrogate Lakewood 17 4 3
Fountain View Care Center Lakewood 71 27 10
Leisure Park Health Center Lakewood 30 9 13 1
Concord Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center Lakewood 61 23 17
Atlantic Coast Rehabilitation & Healthcare Lakewood 100 20 18
Leisure Chateau Care and Rehab Center Lakewood 85 43 22
377 136 84 1


Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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