By Kimberly Davis

HAMILTON, N.J. (CBS) — In the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have seen the most deaths from COVID-19. In Pennsylvania, they account for more than 80% of the total deaths in the state. In New Jersey, it’s half.

“They were very discreet about it. There wasn’t a lot of transparency,” said Lauren Auletta, who takes care of her grandmother.

That’s how Auletta describes her experience of finding out her grandmother’s long-term care facility was dealing with an outbreak of the coronavirus.

Auletta says it got so bad, that she and her mother decided to remove her grandmother, Rosemary Spare, from Hamilton Continuing Care Center in Mercer County, after staff allegedly denied Spare a COVID-19 test.

“They said that the symptom wasn’t great and she was showing no sign of a fever and the cough wasn’t enough to evaluate her,” Auletta said.

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Three days later, her fever spiked and Nanny was diagnosed with COVID-19.

It’s stories like Auletta’s that have New Jersey officials implementing new guidelines for long-term care facilities.

“All residents and staff at our long-term care facilities be tested no later than May 26 with follow-up testing not more than one week later,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

But Auletta says these new guidelines should have been implemented weeks ago.

“I think that they’re a little too late. They should have done this in the beginning. I feel that the governor should have taken this a little bit more seriously when it comes to senior centers, long-term care facilities and assisted living,” Auletta said.

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Thankfully, Spare recovered from COVID-19 and is doing well, but Auletta says lives could have been spared if lawmakers acted quicker.

“My heart goes out to everyone that has lost a senior in a senior center because of this. They didn’t deserve it,” she said.

In Pennsylvania, at least 2,400 residents of nursing homes or other facilities have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that every resident of a long-term care facility and employee in the state will be tested once a week for the virus. Facilities will also have to start reporting deaths and test results in the same way hospitals are by May 17.

Kimberly Davis