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More than 100 N.J. nursing homes have had coronavirus outbreaks since summer as crisis continues

The coronavirus devastated New Jersey’s nursing homes this spring, killing thousands of residents and prompting a raft of measures to better protect the state’s most vulnerable population.

Since that time, long-term care facilities say they have stockpiled personal protective equipment. They’ve developed protocols for testing residents and staff and isolating those who are sickened. Visitors continue to be limited by state regulators, amid fears the virus will be reintroduced as families reunite with their loved ones.

Yet despite those precautions, the coronavirus continues to creep into the state’s nursing homes, assisted-living centers and other senior facilities, even among those that managed to eradicate their original outbreaks, Department of Health data shows.

Across New Jersey, at least 102 long-term care facilities saw new outbreaks this summer or fall after being declared COVID-19 free, according to a review by NJ Advance Media. Included in those were 11 facilities in which residents or staffers died in the new contagions.

That points to a somber reality as New Jersey grapples with a concerning resurgence of coronavirus in recent weeks: Even as nursing homes have had nearly seven months of experience combating the virus, many remain unable to keep it wholly at bay. Still, those outbreaks are proving less deadly and easier to contain than in March or April, when underprepared facilities were floored by a pandemic that caught them, the state and the country flat-footed, flooding New Jersey’s hospitals and morgues.

On Friday, a union that represents 8,000 nursing home workers in New Jersey expressed concerns about a second wave of the disease and the impacts it could carry.

“Nursing home operators need to be taking every precaution, including giving frontline workers access to n95 masks, gowns and surgical masks before, not after, new outbreaks emerge,” said Milly Silva, the executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “Facilities need also to staff-up now, to prevent the type of short-staffing crisis that we experienced earlier this year.”

James McCracken, who heads a trade association of nonprofit senior care organizations, called preparedness a difference of “night and day” from what it once was. Nursing homes have learned to better protect residents and staff, he said, and have largely secured the personal protective equipment that was in such short supply.

“It’s pretty clear that there’s just a much better understanding of the disease, which no one had in the beginning, which was new to everyone,” said McCracken, the chief executive of LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware.

But seniors and the workers who care for them do continue to be sickened and die, if at rates far lower than at the height of the disease’s sweep. It takes just one positive test for a nursing home to be considered to have a new outbreak, and in many cases, those small-scale infections are not spreading.

The state began publishing an online list of infections and deaths by facility in April after complaints that nursing homes were not being transparent as the disease ripped through New Jersey. But

U.S. coronavirus cases on the rise again now that summer has given way to fall

The days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color, and the average number of new Covid-19 cases being reported across the United States is now double what it was in June, the latest figures showed Friday.

The U.S. is logging an average of more than 45,000 new infections per day and it’s trending upward, according to statistics compiled by NBC News.

The worrisome development comes a month after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, urged the nation to “hunker down” because the number of new coronavirus cases was likely to rise as summer gave way to fall and the flu season started.

And this week, Fauci said he will be celebrating Thanksgiving via Zoom with his three daughters to avoid infection.

“We would love for them to come home for Thanksgiving,” Fauci, who lives in Washington, D.C., said during a webinar. “They have said themselves, ‘Dad, you know you’re a young, vigorous guy, but you’re 79 years old.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump declared himself “healed” during a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh, and later the White House announced he would be doing an in-person event Saturdayfrom the Truman balcony, even though it’s been just a week since the president was diagnosed with Covid-19.

Earlier, a White House spokesman hedged on whether Trump would attend a Saturday campaign rally in Florida.

Trump won’t go unless “he’s medically cleared that he will not be able to transmit the virus,” deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern said Friday on MSNBC.

But later Friday, the Trump campaign announced the president would be heading to Sanford, Florida, on Monday for a campaign rally.

Sanford is where 17-year-old Black teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012 by a neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman, whose acquittal on murder charges sparked nationwide protests.

More than a dozen other Trump aides and allies have also come down with infections, along with four White House residence staffers. And many of these infections have been tied to a Sept. 26 event Trump held in the Rose Garden to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

“We had a super spreader event in the White House and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks,” Fauci said Friday in a CBS Radio interview.

Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s former secretary of Veterans Affairs, said nobody really knows how infectious Trump is because “there hasn’t been enough information out there.”

“The recommendations are that it should be 10 days from the onset of the infection, but you have to know whether someone’s on symptom-relieving medication and whether they have symptoms when they’re off those medications,” Shulkin told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on Friday. “But Stephanie, I’m more worried, not about the president, but more worried about him putting people at risk at these rallies. We know that these rallies consist of people who don’t social distance, who don’t wear masks.”

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