Officials: New COVID outbreak at Chelsea Veterans’ Home likely originated from recreational event

CHELSEA, Mass. — A recreational event held recently at the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea is believed to be the origin of a new COVID outbreak at the facility, state officials said Monday.

A state Department of Public Health “rapid response team” arrived at the facility at 91 Crest Ave. on Friday to assist with staffing, officials said.

As of Monday afternoon, 15 residents and 10 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus at the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea, Veterans’ Services Secretary Jon Santiago said in a statement. The facility was formerly called the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.

The first resident tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, May 31, days after a recreational event at the facility on Sunday, May 28, which officials said is likely the origin of the outbreak.

“The Executive Office of Veterans’ Services is actively monitoring the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea, where 15 residents and 10 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. I wish those infected a speedy recovery and want to express my gratitude to all those who are working to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and staff,” Santiago said in a statement. ”We remain vigilant in monitoring the situation in Chelsea, recognizing that although we are past the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 is endemic and cases will occur. Our team is taking a proactive and hands-on approach to this situation, implementing evidence-based measures, and working alongside DPH to monitor and provide the highest level of care to our residents and staff.”

Of the 15 residents who have tested positive, all are boosted with the bivalent vaccine, officials said.

Fourteen of the residents are on therapeutic medication such as Paxlovid, Molnupiravir, and Remdesivir. Over the last several days, two patients were sent to the hospital; one returned to the facility the same day; and the other patient was being sent back to the facility on Monday.

As the number of cases went up, universal masking in clinical areas was implemented, officials said. All resident staff and all clinical staff are being tested daily.

After officials identified the first cluster of positive cases, staff implemented “standup multiple isolation units” for infected residents and other residents who may subsequently test positive for COVID-19, officials said.

Chelsea Veterans’ Home staff are actively engaging with residents and their families to ensure consistent communication regarding the status of positive cases. All family members of residents who have tested positive have received direct and personal updates from the nursing staff. Furthermore, supervisors are directly communicating with unit staff members, and daily email updates are sent to keep residents, families, and staff well-informed.

“The Chelsea Veterans’ Home staff is committed to providing a secure environment for our residents and staff,” Acting Veterans’ Home Superintendent Robert Engell said in a statement. “We are ensuring that all lines of communication remain transparent and accessible between our staff and relevant stakeholders and will continue to monitor the situation.”

In March, the families of three residents of the Chelsea veterans’ care facility who died after contracting COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston, saying their deaths were “premature and preventable.”

In January, Eric Johnson, the former superintendent of the Chelsea veterans’ facility, was fired following the controversy and backlash surrounding the COVID-19 deaths at the facility.

Last year, Massachusetts state lawmakers agreed upon legislation to overhaul oversight of the Holyoke and Chelsea veterans’ care facilities, where dozens died after contracting COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic in 2020.

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Established in 1882, the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea, formerly the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, offers residential and long-term care programs to Massachusetts veterans, according to the state’s website.

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

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