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Early Impacts Of The Coronavirus On Mass. Senior Living Residences

An N95 protective mask which Tufts medical staff would wear if they were assigned to treat a patient suspected of having an infectious disease such as a coronavirus. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
An N95 protective mask which Tufts medical staff would wear if they were assigned to treat a patient suspected of having an infectious disease such as a coronavirus. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Older adults, especially those with underlying health issues, have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, so nursing homes and other senior living residences in Massachusetts have been on high alert for weeks.

Hoping to avoid what happened at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington — where at least 129 people have tested positive and 35 people have died — the state and federal governments have issued guidelines about cleaning, hygiene, and limiting outside visitors. Still, late last week, senior living residences in the state began reporting residents testing positive for the coronavirus.

Here are some of the early impacts of the outbreak on senior living residences:

Boston

One resident of Rogerson House, a memory care facility in Jamaica Plain, died Friday, March 20. The 91-year-old man with underlying health problems was taken to Carney Hospital with flu-like symptoms five days earlier and was tested for COVID-19.

While awaiting results, the man was put in end of life care — it's unclear whether he was put on a ventilator or respirator, a spokeswoman said. One day after he died, the results of his test came back positive.

On March 16, an employee of Rogerson House began showing symptoms, and has been in quarantine ever since. She was tested for COVID-19 and received a positive diagnosis March 21. According to the spokeswoman, she is still at home and "doing OK."

Rogerson staff have also quarantined an elderly resident with symptoms. This resident was tested earlier this week and is awaiting results.

According to the spokeswoman, staff have prepared another private room in the building for any residents who might get sick and need to be quarantined.

Even before the first resident became ill, Rogerson started banning all visitors — including family and private aides — and staff have been trying to enforce "social distancing" as much as possible.

One patient five employees have also tested positive at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Roslindale.

The patient had recently been released from a Boston hospital, and is in the center's short-term care wing, which is separate from its long-term care facility.

Bourne

According to The Bourne Enterprise, one person living in the Cape Cod Senior Residences in Pocasset has tested positive for the coronavirus. The unnamed person has underlying health issues, and is currently in the ICU for treatment.

A spokeswoman for the Cape Cod Senior Residences did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Canton

Four residents and two employees of Hebrew SeniorLife's Orchard Cove, a skilled nursing facility in Canton, have tested positive for the coronavirus. One of the residents has died, three are recuperating in a quarantined wing of the facility, and the employees are self-isolating at home.

Orchard Cove is part of the Hebrew Senior Life network, which serves thousands of older adults in the greater Boston area. HSL President Lou Woolf says that even though the company has been putting preventative measures in place for weeks, there are likely to be more outbreaks at nursing homes around the state.

"When this is all said and done, this will not be an uncommon occurrence. So we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Woolf said.

Chelsea

Two veteran residents of the state-run Soldiers' Home in Chelsea have died from the coronavirus. One other resident was tested and is waiting on results.

Two employees of the long-term care facility  have tested positive and two more are waiting on test results.

Danvers

Eight residents of the Hunt Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Danvers have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from the facility. The residents are being cared for in the nursing home by staff who are "adequately supplied with personal protective equipment.

The center also says it's taking residents' temperature at least three times a day, and that "all residents who have exhibited symptoms and have tested positive are being cohorted onto one unit."

Greenfield

Eight residents of the Buckley HealthCare Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 6 of them have been taken to a local hospital. The two other residents remain “isolated … to prevent additional exposure,” according to the National HealthCare Center, which operates the skilled nursing facility.

NHC says it is “taking the appropriate steps to communicate with those who may have come in contact with the patients who tested positive” and restricting all non-essential personnel from entering the residence.

No employees have exhibited symptoms or tested positive at this point.

Haverhill

One employee at Benchmark Senior Living at Haverhill Crossings has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently self-isolating, according to a company spokeswoman. The employee, who is not a member of the care team, was not exhibiting symptoms while working in the community.

In an e-mail, a spokeswoman said: "We are taking proactive measures to protect our community. We are presently working with public health authorities to evaluate which residents and associates had high exposure to this person and will be taking their guidance regarding any quarantine for those individuals."

Holyoke

Fifteen veteran residents have died at the state-run Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. Of those, six have positive for COVID-19; six have cases pending test results; two are negative and a final case is unknown.

Additionally, 11 living residents and seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Charlie Baker has hired an attorney to oversee an independent investigation of the deaths in Holyoke. The move followed claims by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and others that the veterans' home there did not properly notify city or state officials about the outbreak.

North Attleborough

Four residents of The Branches, an assisted living community with a memory care unit, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to a spokeswoman from Benchmark Senior Care, which operates The Branches, the first patient presented with symptoms on March 15 while already at the hospital for unrelated health issues. This resident was tested for COVID-19 and confirmed positive on March 17.

Meanwhile, a second resident of The Branches began displaying symptoms on March 15 and was taken to the hospital. This resident received positive test results for COVID-19 on March 19.

One resident who tested positive for COVID-19 has recovered and returned to the community, "in accordance with public health authority guidelines," a spokeswoman said via e-mail.

The company is also asking all residents to remain in their rooms “out of an abundance of caution," though exceptions are being made for those in the memory care program.

So far, two employees has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We continue to closely monitor all residents, asking to take residents’ temperatures daily and restricting non-essential visitors in our efforts to reduce the potential spread of the virus,” the spokeswoman said. "Currently, only healthcare providers, private caregivers and family members who are part of a care plan and loved ones of residents receiving end of life care are permitted in Benchmark communities."

Norwood

Two residents of the Charlwell House Health and Rehabilitation Center died on Friday in the Norwood Hospital, the Boston Globe reports. The exact number of residents testing positive remains unclear, since many are waiting for test results, but according to the Globe, several residents and at least one employee have "been hospitalized with severe symptoms of the virus." Residents with milder symptoms are being isolated in their rooms.

Revere

Fourteen residents of the Jack Satter House in Revere have tested positive for COVID-19. Hebrew SeniorLife, which runs the independent living facility, says that of these cases, seven people are in the hospital and the other six have died, including one whose cause of death has not been confirmed.

Last week, WBUR reported that the city of Revere put the Jack Satter House under quarantine after seven people tested positive.

“It is the intention of this directive to enhance the efforts of the Jack Satter House and the policies already in place and give further authority for them to enforce these critical protocols,” the statement from the city says.

Worcester

Several residents of the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the center's parent company, SALMON Health and Retirement.

The news has temporarily halted Beaumont's efforts to relocate residents to other Salmon Health and Retirement locations so that the facility could be turned into a dedicated COVID-19 recovery center.

Do you live in one of these residences, or have a family member who does? If so, we want to hear from you. Please contact WBUR reporter Miriam Wasser.

Related:

Miriam Wasser Twitter Reporter, EarthWhile
Miriam Wasser is a reporter for WBUR's environmental vertical.

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