Boy Scout Has Touching Tribute After 37 Deaths at NJ Veterans Home from COVID-19

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A veterans home in New Jersey is the latest nursing home in the state to see the COVID-19 outbreak wreak havoc on its residents, with the virus contributing to as many as 37 deaths over the past two weeks.

The New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus has had 10 residents die as a result of the coronavirus, and has likely contributed to the deaths of 27 more people, according to the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. There are an additional 70 people who are sick and half a dozen individuals hospitalized, while dozens of staff have tested positive as well.

The National Guard is being sent to the center, with 45 medics en route to help the staff treat residents, according to a spokesman for the state's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The medical backup will be arriving throughout Thursday morning.

After learning of the deaths of so many veterans, 13-year-old Boy Scout Alex Saldana stood out front of the center to play taps — the bugle call played at funerals for those who served in the military — and plans to do it for as many nights as possible, as a way to honor the fallen service members. He said it is part of Eagle Scout project, and is also collecting items the veterans may need.

"I'm hoping it will start to give them hope that things will get better," Saldana said. "That they're not forgotten."

The 336-bed veterans home stopped taking on new residents on March 23. There are more than 280 residents living at the center. The other two veterans homes in the state have not been hit as hard, according to an official, as the one in Melo Park has reported 15 positive cases and two deaths. The center in Vineland hasn't reported any cases.

Nursing homes in the state have been particularly hard, with over half of all facilities in the state reporting COVID-19 cases, and outbreaks at multiple locations. Of the state's 1,504 deaths as of Wednesday night, about 10 percent have been residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage told NBC New York that 22 individuals at the Elizabeth Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have died dating back to March 21. Ten of those residents had confirmed cases of COVID-19, while the other 12 were never tested or were awaiting results when they died.

Other nursing homes have reported multiple coronavirus cases as well, including Woodcrest Health Care Center in New Milford, Saint Joseph's Senior Home in Woodbridge and Lakeland Health Care Center in Wanaque, where there have been at least nine deaths.

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