Four people associated with harness racing have died of COVID-19 in New Jersey.. On Friday, March 13, Rita Fusco-Jackson, a sister of harness racing participants Carmine and Vinnie Fusco, died at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, NJ. NJ.com reported Wednesday afternoon that Carmine, 55, had also died, on Wednesday night their mother Grace, 73, also passed away at CentraState, and on Thursday Vinnie, 53, died.
Carmine Fusco had about 20 horses in training in Wind Gap, Pa., where he co-owned a training center. His brother Vincent Fusco Jr., who was known as Vinnie, had 122 starters this year.
Carmine was hospitalized at St. Luke’s University Hospital-Bethlehem Campus, in Bethlehem, Pa. Vinnie passed away at CentraState Medical Center.
Incredibly, six members of the Fusco family—Mrs. Jackson and her brother Carmine were among 11 children--contracted COVID-19.
“This has been devastating for all of us,” said Elizabeth Fusco, 42, of Freehold, a sister of Rita, Carmine and Vinnie. “Our hearts are broken over losing our sister, Rita. We just need help in saving our family members with life-saving medication.”
Another sister, Andriana Fusco, said she doesn’t know how her brother contracted the virus. But she told Lehigh Valley's The Morning Call
that it wasn’t from a family gathering in New Jersey, as some news outlets have reported.
“There was no party, there was no people in from Italy,” she said. “Me, myself, I have not seen my brother since February, and the last time he was even in New Jersey was March 3. I don’t want any false things being said about my brother."
However, The New York Times reported the following on Thursday morning: "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, the state’s health commissioner, Judith M. Persichilli, has said."
According to NJ.com. New Jersey health department officials had said Mrs. Jackson attended a family event and among those at the gathering was horseman John Brennan, who became New Jersey’s first person to die from COVID-19. Brennan, who was a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York, was 69 and suffered a heart attack while hospitalized with COVID-19.
No funeral services have been announced for Brennan and Jackson. The family of Brennan issued the following statement: “Due to the severity of the virus, and in an abundance of caution, funeral arrangements have not been made at this time. Per recommendations, a Mass will be held in the definite future, once the spread of the virus calms. We will allow people enough time to plan accordingly.”