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Pile of bodies linked to coronavirus found at US nursing home

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New York (AFP)

US police found 17 bodies piled up in a nursing home morgue in New Jersey, media reported Thursday, highlighting how the coronavirus outbreak is overwhelming long-term care facilities.

Officers in the small locality of Andover, around 52 miles (80 kilometers) west of New York City, discovered the bodies following an anonymous tip-off, according to The New York Times.

The discovery came on Monday at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Unit -- one of the largest care homes in New Jersey, a state badly hit by coronavirus.

The cause of death of the 17 has not been confirmed but 68 people have recently died at the facility, and 26 of those tested positive for COVID-19, the Times reported.

Police did not confirm the number of bodies found.

But in a statement posted on the Andover police Facebook page, one of the home's owners, Chaim Scheinbaum, said the morgue, which normally houses four bodies, "never had more than 15 present" on Monday.

"The staff was clearly overwhelmed and probably short-staffed," Andover Police Chief Eric Danielson told CNN.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he was "outraged" that bodies had been allowed to pile up and ordered an investigation.

COVID-19 has killed more than 32,000 people across the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University, with New Jersey the worst-hit state after New York.

The outbreak has reportedly claimed thousands of lives in retirement homes, spotlighting how vulnerable the elderly are to the illness.

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