Fifteen veterans have died in just the last three weeks after a coronavirus outbreak at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton.
Dozens more residents and staff are now infected, officials said, even though workers have been in full PPE since March.
Martin Oppenheimer is one of the veterans who died at the home since Nov. 10.
“He was a wonderful husband, I was married to him for 66-and-a-half years,” said his wife, Ellen Oppenheimer, in a phone interview. “I wasn’t there at the end, I couldn’t hold him, I couldn’t say goodbye, I couldn’t kiss him.”
That’s because the 93-year-old WWII veteran had COVID-19.
Even after many months of window visits, Facetime calls and limited interactions with the outside world, the virus made its way in.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, we knew it wasn’t a matter of if it would hit here, but when,” said the veterans home's commandant, Margaret LaBrecque.
She said it was likely through an asymptomatic employee who came to work.
“I really think it was innocent. This person was asymptomatic, they didn’t know they had it,” she said.
Through additional sanitizing and more frequent testing, LaBrecque said, the veterans home is doing everything it can to slow the spread, but the outbreak isn’t over yet.
“It’s continuing to inch along and to me that’s scary,” LaBrecque said.
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Oppenheimer’s family is sending their well wishes to the 46 residents and 40 staff members still fighting the virus.
“The veterans home treated my family and my father with the utmost care and love, and my heart goes out to the people who are still there,” said Oppenheimer’s daughter, Nancy L.
The VA and FEMA are now assisting the veterans home with additional staffing and testing.