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Coronavirus Update: NJ Nursing Homes Face Staffing Shortages As COVID-19 Spreads

PARK RIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Some nursing and assisted living homes are being hit hard with a lack of staffing to support its patients and residents due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Yesterday, sitting in line for two hours to get pills, which I never got, brought me to tears when I went up in my room," Barbara Simon told CBS2's Cory James.

Hard words to hear from a 78-year-old woman, but it is the reality Simon says she is living at the Atrium Post Acute Care and Senior Living Home in Park Ridge, New Jersey.

"There's a tremendous shortage of help," Simon said. "It's scary right now."

That fear, she says, is felt inside the building where approximately 80 residents live.

"Nine or 10 people have been diagnosed in the memory unit with coronavirus and have left the building," Simon said.


Rhoda Prensky, 86, lives on the acute care side where there are nearly 130 patients.

Two of them currently have COVID-19.

Prensky's daughter, Erica Haber, says her mom is next on the list to be tested.

"It's now, it's spread like wildfire and a lot people are symptomatic and a lot of people are out of work," Haber said.

Rory Collins can attest to that.

His mom, Claire Collins, died Monday at the nursing home.

"Within a few hours of her death, we received an email and for the very first time, they told us that they had 30 residents on heightened watch and seven employees that had tested positive for COVID-19," he said.

Atrium officials would not go on camera but said they are working to fill sudden staffing vacancies at its facilities after some workers decided to leave to protect themselves and their families.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

It's a shortage that New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says is happening at nursing homes all across the state.

"We're taking an inventory of their PPE, which is a continuing issue. We're surveying their employee capacity and reviewing the facility staffing plans," she said.

Wednesday night, we learned 10 people have died at the Paramus Veterans Home in Bergen County, New Jersey. Six others from the facility are hospitailized and more than two dozen other residents and staff have tested positive. The National Guard is expected to arrive Thursday.

In the meantime, Simon is just hoping help arrives before it's too late.

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