MEDFORD (CBS) – Fifty-four residents of a nursing home in Medford have died from the coronavirus, the latest tragic outbreak at a senior living facility in Massachusetts. At least 117 others at the Courtyard Nursing Care Center have tested positive for COVID-19.
Most of the residents who tested positive were asymptomatic. All residents are now being screened for possible symptoms, up to three times a day.
“In this instance, 57% of residents who initially tested positive were asymptomatic. It is a complex virus that is hard to detect and can take weeks to present itself. By the time you have a positive test result, many may have already been exposed. It is likely that we will never know exactly how the virus entered the facility,” spokesperson Lori Mayer told WBZ-TV in a statement Tuesday.
Mayer said the first positive case was April 1 and the first resident passed away on April 5.
The average age of the residents who died was over 85. Many of the people who live at the facility are elderly with multiple health conditions, including dementia.
The chief medical officer said that can make enforcing the precautions and restrictions more difficult.
Nicole Catatao’s final memories of her grandfather are from FaceTime videos and window visits at the Courtyard Nursing Care Center.
During a visit to his window on April 11, Catatao’s family thought it looked like no one had been in his room for a while, so they asked the staff to check on him. “And when they did, they got him up, we could see that his diaper was fully soiled,” said his granddaughter. “He was unchanged.”
She said administrators told her family they were severely understaffed. WBZ has learned 42 employees have tested positive.
Two days later, her father returned to his window. “When my father got there, he appeared to be sleeping. When they asked the staff to go check on him, staff members went in the room, left the room, had someone else come in the room check him again, and then that’s when they came to the window told us that he had passed,” said his granddaughter.
He tested positive for coronavirus on April 6 and was gone one week later.
“He wasn’t a healthy man but if coronavirus didn’t take him, I’m sure he would have seen his 91st birthday,” she said.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn said she had been in touch with managers at the nursing home since the first cases came to light.
“They were doing everything they need to do,” she said. “We know staffing was very hard for them. We reached out to DPH, Secretary Sudders office, I reached out to the National Guard for staffing help, and they were working as much as they could, as fast as they could.”
The Department of Public Health said on April 29, a DPH supervisor strongly encouraged the facility to accept a National Guard clinical support team. They declined, believing their staffing was sufficient.
“At the time when the National Guard asked them, maybe they did have better staffing, but I know at the time that my grandfather was there their staffing was not sufficient,” said Catatao.
Before the crisis, Catatao said her grandfather received excellent care at the nursing home for three years.
“This isn’t really to speak ill of the nursing home, but I hope that the state is stepping up and doing more. I want to see that all of these loved ones that died, didn’t die in vain. That we’ve learned something from it.”
The center is now working with the National Guard to test all employees. Every member of the staff must have their temperature taken at the start of their shift.