Relatives of Sylvia Goldsholl received disturbing news from her New Jersey nursing home last month that she had contracted the coronavirus and was isolated.
With the virus particularly deadly for the elderly, the prognosis seemed dire for Ms. Goldsholl, who turned 108 in December.
“It is killing people in retirement homes across New Jersey and across the country,” said Nancy Chazen, a niece of Mrs. Goldsholl. “Quite honestly, I thought it was going to be the end – I mean, she is 108 years old. “
Two weeks later, relatives received another call.
“They told us,” She’s fully recovered, “said Ms. Chazen, whose aunt has become one of the oldest survivors of Covid-19 in the world.
Mrs. Goldsholl’s case is a rare bright spot in New Jersey, whose current death toll from the virus – 9,946 as of Thursday – is second only to that of New York State.
About half of the deaths in New Jersey – 5,168 as of Thursday – occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Long-term care facilities have become hotspots, filled with a vulnerable population and requiring close interaction between residents and caregivers, many of whom have complained that they have not received enough protective gear.
Mrs. Goldsholl, who lives in the Allendale Senior Community in Allendale, N.J., was born on December 29, 1911 and raised in the Bronx, the eldest of four children of Russian immigrant parents.
As a child, she experienced the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 and 1919, and she also experienced two world wars and the Great Depression.
Larry Goldsholl said that when he learned that his aunt had contracted the virus, “We did not know what to think because she survived so much at this stage. “
“We thought, ‘Well, that could be it,’ but knowing Sylvia, I should have known better,” he said. “She’s pretty brave, and it seems like people who live this long have a good immune system. “
Michael Brienza, administrator of the Allendale center, said that Ms. Goldsholl had never been hospitalized or put on a ventilator.
“She has a survivor mentality,” he said. “Her family supported her through it all and, as she says, love helps you get through it.”
A 108-year-old man in New Mexico also survived the virus.
During his daily briefing on the virus on Thursday, Governor Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey hailed Ms. Goldsholl – “a great life, a great mind and a great show of strength” – as a model.
Goldsholl worked as an accountant and never married or had children, her relatives said. She lived in her childhood home until she moved to New Jersey 20 years ago and finally moved to central Allendale 13 years ago.
House officials described her as a curious person who enjoys intelligent conversations and who is known as the “Big Sister” for her outspokenness and her plea for other residents.
She uses a wheelchair and has lost vision and hearing in recent years, relatives said, but remains active and social, whether playing bingo or hanging out in the centre’s dining room.
“You will never find her sitting alone in her room – she is always with people,” said Chazen, adding that her aunt was always attached to others.
“She has always had a reputation for speaking out,” said Ms. Chazen. “If she thinks something is unfair, she will make sure people know it. “
“If she wants to send a letter to the mayor of New York, she will send the letter,” she said.
“I don’t know her secret to longevity,” said her nephew, “but she is very fiery. “