Four Mass. nursing homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks

YARMOUTH, Mass. — It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Windsor Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation facility, operated by Integritus Healthcare of Pittsfield. Since February 21, 75 residents have come down with Covid-19, as well as 20 staff members. Five of the infected residents did not survive.

In recent days, the infection numbers have dropped significantly, said Lisa Gaudet, Vice-President of Communications for Integritus -- down to 21 resident cases and 15 staff cases as of Monday, March 6. The facility expects that, at this rate, Covid should be cleared from the nursing home by March 15.

And it turns out Windsor is not the only nursing home with a significant Covid outbreak. The state Department of Public Health lists three others -- in Millis, Westfield and Worcester -- under admissions freezes until infection numbers ease.

“This is actually not a surprise to me what’s happening,” said Richard Ellison, MD, an infectious disease specialist at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. “Pretty much the entire world is saying that Covid has gone away. This remains a very contagious virus.”

In fact, Ellison said the current dominant variant, XBB 1.5, is the most contagious mutation Massachusetts has seen yet.

“So if you get a case in an area such as a nursing home, it can spread like wildfire,” he said.

Add to that the lowered immunity status typical of many nursing home patients -- and the fact this variant evades immunity -- and you have the ingredients for an outbreak.

Nursing home residents in Massachusetts are required to get a Covid booster, but if they’re sick with other diseases, it may not be enough to ward off a serious infection.

“We have a lot of frail individuals and they are the ones most at risk of getting very seriously ill,” said Ellison. “A lot of younger people now, because they’re immune, when they get exposed to the virus, all they have is the sniffles. So if you’re visiting your grandmother, you really want to think about wearing a mask to protect them.”

Ellison expects Covid infections to continue falling as the weather warms.

Overall, infections in Massachusetts nursing homes are dropping, too. In January 2021, the state logged 474 nursing home Covid cases; this past January -- just 75.

But, Ellison suggested, this is not a time to celebrate.

“It’s definitely not over,” he said. “I think we really have to recognize that.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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