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National Guard combat medics deployed to state veterans homes after COVID-19 deaths

Selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein known for a string of popular Broadway musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, brought an air of nostalgia to the veterans living at the Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home. The John P. Stevens Orchestra, under the direction of Brian Verdi, performed at the Veterans Memorial Home on Oct. 19 in celebration of Veteran’s Day on Nov. 11.

EDISON – After 10 related COVID-19 deaths and a number of positive cases across the three state Veterans’ Memorial Homes, combat medics of the New Jersey National Guard have been deployed to help and assist staff at the homes.

There are 900 residents, who include military veterans, veteran spouses and Gold Star parents (of members of the military who were killed in action during a period of war), living at the three homes in Paramus, Menlo Park in Edison and Vineland.

The state Division of Veterans Healthcare Services, managed by Director Sean VanLew Sr., operates the three modern long-term care nursing homes.

Judith M. Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, said the home in Paramus has 40 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases with five residents hospitalized.

“Since the beginning of March, [the homes] have reported 34 deaths; however, only 10 related to COVID-19,” she said in her daily report on April 9.

VanLew reported the first positive COVID-19 case at the Paramus site through a letter to loved ones on March 29. He explained the resident tested positive while in the hospital.

To date, the homes have reported collectively 58 COVID-19 positive cases.

Persichilli said VanLew has relayed the homes have been experiencing staffing issues, which has prompted the deployment of 40 combat medics to the home in Paramus and 35 combat medics to the home in Menlo Park.

In addition, five licensed practical nurses and four registered nurses will join the combat medics on April 14. Persichilli said the nurses reached out to the state to help through the state’s volunteer COVID-19 portal.

Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Kennedy, state assistant adjutant general, who commands the soldiers and airmen of the New Jersey National Guard, posted a video message on the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs website, to family members and loved ones of residents at the veterans homes on April 8.

He said their number one concern is safety and health of their 900 residents.

Kennedy said the staff continues to keep their loved ones engaged with many great activities, which are posted on their social media sites.

“We are keeping them entertained and having a good time with them,” he said. “Continue to reach out to them, it’s very, very important to know that their safety and their security is our number one concern.”

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