ANDOVER — The same Sussex County nursing home caught piling bodies in a makeshift morgue early in the COVID-19 pandemic has the largest, active COVID outbreak among long-term care facilities statewide, nearly two years later.

Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center was reporting 213 residents with confirmed cases as well as 114 staff cases and three confirmed deaths among residents, as of Friday.

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The three COVID deaths reported at Woodland had happened over the past five months and were in individuals that had underlying conditions, state health officials confirmed in response to us on Sunday.

State health officials also confirmed Sunday that a New Jersey National Guard team would be reporting to Woodland Nursing Center within the next week, among the National Guard troops headed to more than a dozen facilities statewide to help current staff in caring for residents amid continued pandemic staffing shortages.

NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on "NJ Boost Day," Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021(Edwin J. Torres, NJ Governor’s Office)
NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli on "NJ Boost Day," Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021(Edwin J. Torres, NJ Governor’s Office)
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As of Sunday, COVID vaccination rates for Woodland Nursing Center (former Andover Subacute) were 84% of residents vaccinated and 44% of residents boosted — similar to the statewide booster rate of 44.4%, state officials said in the same written response.

While 83% of the Woodland LTC staff had received full initial doses of COVID vaccine, just 11% staff had received boosters.

Gottheimer asks for federal review

“After the 2020 crisis, they were supposed to take corrective steps. I’m asking for an update, to protect residents,” U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer said, in sharing a letter sent Thursday to the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.

In the letter, the Congressman quoted data from before Friday’s update. In sharing it to Twitter on Sunday, he appeared to refer to the 11% of Woodland staff who had so far received boosters.

The state Health Department’s Office of Long-Term Care Resiliency also was providing support and resources and the Department’s Communicable Disease Service and the Local Health Department were providing guidance as part of regular communication with the facility, a spokesperson added on Sunday to us.

Shaky record in Sussex

Sometime after the April 2020 grim discovery of 17 bodies piled up in a morgue intended to hold no more than five, Andover was split and renamed the Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation Center and Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center.

Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation Center also had reported 15 resident cases and 15 staff cases, as of Friday.

The Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II facility (now Woodland) had failed to follow proper infection control and its non-compliance "has caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury, harm impairment or death to residents,” according to a Spring 2020 report issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Federal officials then issued a quarter-million dollars in fines stemming from the unsafe conditions at the two sites, still under the same ownership and management.

As of January, it has remained unclear whether those fines had been paid, as reported by NJ Herald.

Louis Schwartz took half ownership of the facility in Sussex County, alongside Chaim Scheinbaum, back in May 2017, according to Medicare records, as Schwartz’s father dealt with financial upheaval that has since led to fraud charges.

There were 5,747 COVID patients hospitalized statewide as of Saturday night, including 833 patients in intensive care and 460 people on ventilators, with 70 out of 71 hospitals statewide reporting data.

As of Sunday, there were 26,615 new confirmed cases and 2,813 likely cases, based on test results, as well as 12 new lab-confirmed deaths linked to COVID.

On Saturday, the state reported 29,564 new confirmed cases and 5,253 likely cases based on test results, as well as 72 new lab-confirmed deaths linked to COVID.

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