NEW JERSEY - The New Jersey National Guard will deploy 120 members to long-term care facilities to help in the fight against COVID-19, announced Gov. Phil Murphy Thursday.
The non-clinical guard members will begin working this weekend and are not currently assigned to a job.
"I’ve directed the National Guard to deploy its members to long-term care facilities beginning this coming weekend to assist in our COVID-19 mitigation efforts," Murphy said. "We don’t take this step lightly, but the crisis in our long-term care facilities requires us to take it."
Long-term care facilities have been hit especially hard during the pandemic with 513 facilities reporting a total of 24,639 positive cases. 4,505 people have died in the facilities since the outbreak. That number accounts for more than half of the 8,801 people who have died statewide.
Deaths at New Jersey nursing homes have been an ongoing problem.
In Paramus, dozens have died at the New Jersey Veterans Home, a statistic that Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has said was "deeply" concerning.
The true toll among the one million mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities around the country is unclear because most state tallies don’t include those who died without ever being tested for COVID-19.
Experts have said that the staggering number of deaths could be due to chronic staffing shortages in nursing homes that have been made worse by the coronavirus crisis, a shortage of protective supplies at one point and a lack of available testing.
In mid-March, the federal government barred visitors to all long-term care facilities, all were ordered to cease group activities, and every worker was required to be tested for fever or respiratory symptoms at every shift.
An AP report last month found that infections were continuing to find their way into nursing homes because such checks didn't catch people who were infected but asymptomatic.