Causes of death for the others remain unknown, the Times reported.
The scope of the unfolding tragedy began coming into focus over the weekend when authorities received a request for 25 body bags at the nursing home, Andover Police Chief Eric Danielson told NJ Advance Media on Wednesday night.
Danielson said that, when police arrived at 2 a.m. Sunday, five bodies were being stored in a room.
Then, on Monday, police received an anonymous tip about a body reportedly being loaded into a shed on the property.
“The concern we had, obviously, was that a body was being put into a shed,” Danielson said, explaining that a death or deaths at the nursing home would not automatically prompt an investigation.
When officers returned, the shed did not have a body, but an additional 12 bodies were being stored in the building, bringing the total to 17, Danielson said.
Of that, Danielson said 13 were transported to a refrigerated truck at Newton Medical Center, with four remaining behind because arrangements had been made with funeral parlors.
“Since then, the owner has procured a refrigerated truck on site, in case of any further issues,” Danielson said.
The discovery of the bodies was first reported by the New Jersey Herald.
The nursing home’s two buildings have 696 beds. The first building has a three-out-of-five star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the second has an overall one-star rating.
The facilities could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. It has not made public statements to other media outlets.
New Jersey’s coronavirus outbreak, with 71,030 confirmed cases and 3,156 fatalities as of Wednesday afternoon, has especially impacted the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
In Elizabeth, more than two dozen residents have died at the Elizabeth Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Grove Street since at least March 21, a city spokeswoman said Saturday. NJ Advance Media previously reported at least 12 of those who died had tested positive for COVID-19.
On Monday, State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli announced that 324 long-term care facilities have confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, and cited an estimate that about 10% in the facilities have the virus.
On April 4, the state Department of Health announced that all nursing homes must notify staff, residents and families within 24 hours when either a resident or staff member is under investigation for the coronavirus disease or tests positive.
NJ Advance Media staff writer Rebecca Panico contributed to this story.
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