As the COVID-19 outbreaks impacted nursing homes and long term care facilities across the country, state-run veterans’ homes were among the hardest hit. In New Jersey, two locations in particular stand out – Menlo Park and Paramus. As of June 23, there were 378 confirmed cases and 143 deaths in these two facilities. The staff was also severely impacted – there have been 196 who have contracted the virus and two have died. As of June 23, there are still 29 staff members awaiting COVID-19 test results.
These overwhelming numbers have prompted 28 tort claims notices to be filed by two attorneys – Paul daCosta and Frank Rodriguez. In their claims notices they allege gross negligence and incompetence in the facilities’ handling of the crisis. They claim that the administration at the Menlo Park home directed staff not to wear gloves or masks for fear of frightening residents, waited a month to report the first COVID-related death, allowed infected staff to continue working and failed to provide personal protection equipment.
The wave of infections hit the Paramus home so hard that the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, sent in the National Guard to provide medics and assist in the care of the residents.
As a result of the crisis in the New Jersey VA home in Paramus, two New Jersey congressmen, Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell, Jr. have written the Inspector General for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Washington D.C. to request an immediate investigation into the facility and the conditions that led to the sickness and deaths of so many of the residents and staff.
Given the nature of their allegations, the attorneys are confident that their claims will not be impacted by state immunity laws since the facilities failed to follow their own infectious disease protocols.
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