With COVID-19 deaths surging in Hoboken, measures underway to protect seniors

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With COVID-19 deaths on the rise in Hoboken, the city is taking extra preventative measures to protect their seniors, particularly at the housing authority.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“We’re taking it very seriously. We have probably the most vulnerable population in Hoboken. Ever since this started, we’ve been meeting or exceeding CDC guidelines,” Hoboken Housing Authority Executive Director Marc Recko said in a phone interview this morning.

“Today we’re starting a total disinfecting fogging procedure. We’re starting this evening and through Tuesday at all three senior buildings.”

In addition to the fogging, the senior buildings have been cleaned four times a day, with an emphasis on items that are touched frequently such as doors, elevator buttons, key pads, and banisters.

As of this 8:41 p.m. evening, Hoboken officials revealed a total of 269 coronavirus patients and 13 fatalities, four of which occurred on Wednesday and and another three that were disclosed just minutes ago.

That’s about a 117 percent upswing in COVID-19-related fatalities in just 48 hours and only one of those deceased patients was under 60 years old based on data previously released by the city.

“We unfortunately lost three additional members of our senior community today: a female in her mid 60s, a male in his late 70s, and a male in his early 90s. To the families of those who lost loved ones – know that my office and the City of Hoboken are here for you if you need a helping hand during these difficult times,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said in a statement.

“Today, 14 additional residents tested today positive for COVID-19, for a total of 269 cases in Hoboken. Since Saturday, Riverside Medical Group tested 134 residents which included several first responders, with 35 positive cases, 29 negative, and 70 pending results. These numbers have been integrated into our daily totals each day.”

Recko indicated he wasn’t sure how many deaths were HHA residents, though he knows some were and said that everyone is doing their best to prevent others.

“I don’t know how many deaths we’ve had, but we have had some. The best response to this crisis is that everyone stay home,” he stated, also indicating that people are managing eight different sites to make sure seniors have their proper medications and food.

He was also extremely complimentary of the efforts of all HHA employees during this pandemic, expressing “great gratitude and respect” for everyone who has remained on the job taking care of residents.

While multiple city officials either declined to comment, or were unable to confirm, how many coronavirus-related fatalities were HHA residents, 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos said he believed “the majority” were.

“We knew going into it knowing that the most vulnerable population was going to be seniors, not just in Hoboken, across the country. Everyone’s doing the best they can,” Ramos told HCV.

“We had some concerns about outreach since not everyone participates in the regular senior programs. The Nixle and social media posts are great, but not all of our seniors are on that: they prefer receiving messages in person.”

Ramos added that everyone is making it a collective goal to keep the seniors indoors for the next two weeks, and credited Councilwomen Tiffanie Fisher and Vanessa Falco, as well as Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro (D-33), for working with Toni Tomarazzo and the Hoboken Community Center to expand the city’s food pantry efforts during this crisis.

He continued that $50,000 of CBDG money, recently received from the COVID-19 stimulus package, will be used to fog clean the HHA’s senior residences. Those three buildings will cost about $17,800, the councilman explained.

Bhalla made similar remarks about the deep cleaning effort this evening.

“I thank Director Pellegrini and Housing Authority Executive Director Marc Recko for collaborating to make this additional precaution possible, and dedicated volunteers like Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro for helping provide important safety tips to the seniors on a regular basis,” the mayor said.

Anyone wishing to help the food pantry effort can making a financial contribution here, donate nonperishable food here, or call either 551-281-6444 or 551-285-6555 for further assistance.

No in-person contributions are being accepted due to mandated social distancing guidelines.

This afternoon, the New Jersey Department of Health disclosed that there are now 51,027 cases of the coronavirus statewide, along with 1,700 deaths, including 5,879 cases in Hudson County and 132 deaths – the third most in the state by county.