LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An assisted living facility in Ocean County managed to avoid COVID-19 for nine months, but then the holidays hit and it had a December outbreak.

The family of 95-year-old George Swithers had breathed a sigh of relief when Seacrest Village, his long-term care facility, avoided coronavirus entirely in the spring. It was an exception to the COVID rule. But then the holidays brought an explosion of cases and deaths.

“It was a recipe that eventually was just going to happen,” granddaughter Karen Starr-Brady told CBS2’s Meg Baker on Thursday.


Starr-Brady said the facility had done everything right, banning visitors early on. She pointed a finger at the vaccine rollout delay.

“Had the vaccination reached our facility, George wouldn’t have COVID right now,” said Starr-Brady, a health professional.

Swithers tested positive last week, was treated with antibodies and is doing much better.

The virus spread like wildfire. More than 90 residents and more than 60 staff members contracted it. So far, 29 residents have passed away.


Dr. Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, said the virus is so contagious, it’s hard to stop in congregate settings.

“It doesn’t take lots of infections to create spread. It just takes one infection,” Halkitis said.

Ocean County health officials said they consulted with Seacrest to shore up safety measures, but the facility did institute control measurers properly, including prohibiting the mingling of staff and residents whenever possible, closing units, halting communal activities, increasing cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and conducting more testing.

No one from Seacrest got back to CBS2 following a request for comment.

Residents and staff are expected to get vaccinated on Wednesday.

CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report


CBSNewYork Team