The elderly are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, making nursing homes particularly high-risk. One such home for veterans in Paramus, New Jersey has had 37 veterans die in two weeks, prompting a response from the National Guard.
“We go to the side and we cry with each other. Who do we have to talk to? We are afraid we’re going to die with the residents," a staff member at the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus told North Jersey, a local news outlet.
So far, 10 of the 37 veterans who died have tested positive for COVID-19. The normal death rate at the veterans home is three per week, so jumping up from the average of six in two weeks to 37 is significant and more are expected to test positive for the virus. Staff members have also tested positive while others are awaiting test results.
Now, the National Guard is stepping in to help.
"To cope with the crisis, a team of 36 medics from the Army National Guard is to be deployed to the facility this week for assistance with nursing duties," a Veteran's Affairs spokesperson confirmed to a local news affiliate.
The staff member at the veterans home who spoke to local reporters said that they received no training in preparation for the pandemic and were told not to wear personal protective equipment, such as masks, because it would scare the residents.
"Starting today up to 75 New Jersey Army National Guard combat medics will be assisting at the Paramus and Menlo Park homes to level out the staffing. These medics are not nurses, but are fully trained similar to a civilian EMT," a Public Affairs Officer for the New Jersey National Guard told Connecting Vets.