7 members of New Jersey family get coronavirus; 4 die
Grace Fusco — mother of 11, grandmother of 27 — would sit in the same pew at church each Sunday, surrounded by nearly a dozen members of her sprawling Italian American family. Sunday dinners drew an even larger crowd to her home in central New Jersey.
Now, her close-knit clan is united anew by unspeakable grief: Fusco, 73, died Wednesday night after contracting the coronavirus — hours after her son died from the virus and five days after her daughter’s death, a relative said.
On Thursday, another child who had contracted the virus, Vincent Fusco, died, the relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, said.
Three other children remain hospitalized, two of them in critical condition, said Paradiso Fodera, the family’s lawyer, who is Fusco’s cousin and is serving as a spokeswoman.
Fusco’s eldest child, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, of Freehold, New Jersey, died Friday; after her death, the family learned she had contracted the virus. Fusco’s eldest son, Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pennsylvania, died Wednesday, Paradiso Fodera said.
Grace Fusco, of Freehold, died after spending Wednesday “gravely ill” and breathing with help from a ventilator, unaware that her two oldest children had died, Paradiso Fodera said.
Nearly 20 other relatives are quarantined at their homes, awaiting test results and praying in isolation, unable to join together to mourn their deep collective loss. Friends are doing what they can from afar.
“If they’re not on a respirator, they’re quarantined,” Paradiso Fodera said.
“It is so pitiful,” she added. “They can’t even mourn the way you would.”
As of Saturday evening, 16 New Jersey residents had died after contracting the virus, which has infected at least 1,336 people statewide.
Nationwide, at least 23,662 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for coronavirus, and at least 322 have died, according to a New York Times database.
But the virus’s devastating toll on a single family is considered as rare as it is perplexing.
The state’s health commissioner, Judith Persichilli, has said Fusco-Jackson had no underlying health problems.
Paradiso Fodera said the woman’s younger siblings were also in good health before contracting the virus.
“They’re young, and they don’t have any underlying conditions,” Paradiso Fodera said.
It was unclear whether Grace Fusco, a heavyset woman, had underlying health problems.
She and four of her children were being treated at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, about an hour south of Manhattan, relatives said. Carmine Fusco died at a Pennsylvania hospital near his home, Paradiso Fodera said.
The family has deep ties to the horse-racing industry near Freehold Raceway. Some trained horses. Others raced them. The children’s father, Vincenzo Fusco, did both, according to his obituary.
A person who had contact with a man who died in New Jersey on March 10, becoming the state’s first coronavirus-related fatality, had attended a recent Fusco family gathering, Persichilli said.
The first New Jersey man to die has been identified by a close friend and the harness track where he worked, Yonkers Raceway, as John Brennan.
Paradiso Fodera said the gathering was a routine Tuesday dinner.
“A party to most people was a regular dinner to them,” she said before counting names on a family tree that listed 27 grandchildren.