ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — The owner of the state's largest long-term care facility, where 17 bodies were found crowded into a makeshift morgue, has been fined and will need to have some specific roles added to its staff, according to state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.

During Saturday's COVID-19 state briefing, Persichilli said a survey team visited Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center on Friday, among five long term facilities visited in north Jersey. She said the owner received several citations and must submit an official "plan of correction" by Monday.

"The plan of correction includes an on-site infection prevention specialist, a Chief Nurse Officer and leadership, an administrative manager," Persichilli said, while not going into detail on citations that were issued.

Andover is co-owned by Chaim Scheinbaum and Louis Schwartz, according to Medicare records.

Sussex County Administrator Gregory Poff said in a statement Saturday that 26 deaths, or nearly half of the 57 deaths at Andover since March 15, were related to COVID-19. There are 543 beds at the facility, according to Poff.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, whose Congressional district includes Andover Township, has helped secure body bags for the site and has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy National Guard and Reserves to assist the care facility, described as "overwhelmed" by the township police chief.

Gov. Phil Murphy said during Saturday's briefing that sending members of the New Jersey National Guard to the Andover facility was "on the table."

The Sussex County Board of Freeholders released its own statement Saturday, which said that facts were "misrepresented" by the state health department on April 16, regarding the Andover situation.

"The Sussex County Division of Health (SCDOH) did not ever indicate that current staffing levels at this facility were 'appropriate' or 'solid,'" the Freeholders said in their joint statement, which also noted the county first reported a COVID-19 cluster at the facility to the state on March 29.

During the April 16 briefing, Persichilli gave a rundown of information about Andover, including that the local health officer had visited the facility at 2 a.m. Sunday, April 12 and that the state received another complaint on April 14 about more bodies being stored there. She said "the local health department surveyed the facility and reported that they were short on staffing."

Persichilli also said that it was the facility's owner who reported having 12 nurses and 39 certified nursing assistants on staff, at that point.

The Freeholder Board also said they have filed "numerous complaints" with the state Dept. of Health and that they "fully support the State Attorney General Office’s investigation" of the facility.

Murphy previously said he was "outraged" after learning that "bodies were allowed to pile up" at the facility and called on the Attorney General's Office to investigate the incident.

In a letter shared Saturday, Gottheimer said he has been in regular touch with Persichilli and also has heard from "45 long-term care facilities in Sussex, Warren, Bergen, and Passaic Counties that they are in critical need" of supplies, additional personnel and other assistance as they work to contain COVID-19 cases.

As of Sunday, 1,730 patients have died from COVID-19 at the state's long term care facilities, including 48 in Sussex County, according to data reported to the state. The state data also said 420 long term care facilities have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, as of April 19.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app