Long Term Care Facilities Trying Not to Lose the Battle Against COVID-19

JGS Lifecare, which has its campus in Longmeadow, reported 33 cases of COVID-19. JGS serves as an example of the unique threat the novel coronavirus poses to nursing homes and assisted living centers. GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Long term care facilities have become one of the most deadly places to reside in with COVID-19 threatening to take even more lives. As the country approaches the top of the curve, new cases are popping up all around the country, and Longmeadow does not remain unaffected. Thirty-three residents at the JGS Lifecare Center off of Converse St. tested positive for coronavirus as of April 3. JGS Lifecare President Adam Berman said in a statement that the staff had taken “aggressive steps to quarantine anyone with close contact,” and will continually “work closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Longmeadow Fire Department, and other local authorities to take all possible actions to protect our residents, staff, and community.”

With JGS recently announcing that their staff members and residents have been infected, Glenmeadow, a life plan community off of Converse St., has also announced that they have one case. Glenmeadow President Anne Thomas said in a statement that “during the pandemic, we take direction and continue to work closely with the Center of Disease Control, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, LeadingAge, our national association, and Longmeadow Emergency Management personnel.” LHS senior, Andrew Healy, has grandparents who live in the Glenmeadow complex. “My grandparents have been told to stay in their rooms as much as possible and have meals taken to them to reduce the contact they have with other residents,” Healy says. “Despite these efforts, it is still a stressful situation, especially because no outside contact is allowed with the residents and my family has not been able to see my grandparents since the lockdown. The only thing we can really do is hope for the best.”

From the very start of the outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S, long term care facilities have been severely affected. Not only are there a large number of people in one confined area, but almost all of them are at risk because of their old age. In early March, the first outbreak occurred in The Life Care Center of Kirkland in Seattle, Washington. According to Business Insider, the nursing home accounted for nearly 60% of COVID-19’s United States death toll all by itself as of March 21. While the problem seemed far away at first existing only on the west coast, in the span of a couple of weeks, long term care facilities in Massachusetts were hit hard. 

Only around 15 miles away from Longmeadow, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was found to have cases on March 21 where the first veteran had tested positive for the coronavirus. Two and a half weeks later, there are now 62 cases at the nursing home, with a total of 24 residents passing away because of the deadly virus. According to MassLive, as of April 8, 68 staff members have tested positive, rounding out to a total of 130 cases at this Holyoke care center. The superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home, retired Marine Corps LtCol Bennet Walsh, is now on paid administrative leave and has since stood by his claim that the management of the entire situation was handled properly. However, Governor Charlie Baker said that Sunday was the first time he was made aware of the situation at the Soldiers’ Home, and has since ordered three separate investigations into what happened per MassLive.

With the number of cases in the U.S. surging to 462,135 on Thursday, according to the John Hopkins University of Medicine Data, it comes as no surprise that more and more long term care facilities have started to fall to COVID-19. The rapid spreading virus has now infected approximately 160 of the state’s long term care facilities, with 1,633 residents and staff members testing positive for COVID-19 according to the MDPH. With a total of 18,941 cases in the entire state as of Thursday, nursing homes make up 8.62% of the overall number of cases. More and more nursing homes are affected by the day, and according to The Boston Herald, these homes are “teetering on the edge of collapse” without enough proper medical supplies and funds.

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