National Guard to respond to Littleton facility where five patients have died amid COVID-19 outbreak

LITTLETON — Members of the National Guard were expected to respond to the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley on Friday after five patients have died, and even more are hospitalized.

The National Guard will do extensive testing for coronavirus on about 100 staff and patients.

Firefighters in Littleton have responded to the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley nearly 20 times in the last week.

As the coronavirus continues to evolve, state health officials have been keeping a close eye on long-term care facilities with older adults, trying to mitigate clusters and keep staff safe.

“We’ve identified COVID-19 clusters in about 78 facilities,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services.

To put that number into perspective, there are 700 long-term care facilities in Massachusetts, and health officials say the numbers of clusters inside long-term care facilities will likely rise.

"We know from experience from other states there would be clusters but frankly, if we hadn’t put in the restrictions we had, the situation would probably be worse," Sudders said.

The National Guard has been called in to help at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home as veterans continue to die from the virus.

The National Guard response to the Littleton facility comes after fire officials responded to the facility 19 times since Friday, transporting 17 patients to local hospitals.

Town officials say the facility failed to comply with the Littleton Board of Health protocol when their first staff member and patient tested positive for COVID-19.

“At this point we’re working with all of the agencies that we have, we’re constantly in contact with the Department of Public Health, we’re constantly in contact with the National Guard,” said Nina Nazerian, Littleton town administrator. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can in this process to assist the Life Care facility and especially protect the residents of that facility and the employees of that facility and the residents at large.”

Littleton Fire Chief Scott Wodzinski says nurses and aides at the Life Care Center have been doing their best taking care of patients directly.

“They have staff that are out sick, they may be short staffed but they are working very diligently and very hard with the situation that they’re faced with,” Wodzinski said.

Fire officials in Littleton say they’ve tested their firefighters for coronavirus but none have tested positive so far.