“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” said Police Chief Eric C. Danielson

By Julie Mazziotta
April 16, 2020 11:10 AM
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The bodies of 17 people were found in a New Jersey nursing home on Monday based on an anonymous tip.

Police officers in Andover were told that there was a body left in a shed at Andover Subacute and Rehab Center, the largest licensed nursing home in the state. When they arrived on the scene, there was no body in the shed. Instead, employees at the home brought the officers to the facility’s morgue, where 17 bodies were piled into a space intended for just four.

“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” Eric C. Danielson, the Andover police chief, told The New York Times.

The nursing home, which has 700 beds, has been ravaged by the new coronavirus, COVID-19. The 17 bodies found were some of the 68 people at the facility who have died in recent weeks, two of which were nurses. Of those 68 deaths, 26 had tested positive for COVID-19. The cause of death is not yet known for the others.

“The residents were expiring. Why? We’re not sure if it’s from Covid-19 or from other diseases, but we tried our best to ease the burden,” Danielson told CNN.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty

There are an additional 76 people in the facility who are currently infected with COVID-19, including 41 employees, one of which is an administrator, the Times reported.

Nursing homes have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many elderly and high-risk residents living in close quarters. According to a count from NBC News, there have been at least 5,670 deaths at long-term living facilities in the U.S. as of Wednesday.

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And in New Jersey, COVID-19 has spread to 95 percent of the 375 long-term living facilities in the state, and 625 people have died.

Danielson said that the deaths at Andover Subacute and Rehab Center were the most he has seen.

“It is by far one of the most bodies at one time that I’ve experienced in terms of a nursing home,” he told CNN. “Based upon the pandemic and the numbers we saw coming out of the facility, I don’t know if I’m necessarily shocked about that. It’s an unfortunate situation altogether.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.