The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) stated that there has been a COVID-19 outbreak at a South Yarmouth nursing home, which has left five people deceased and over 90 residents and staff infected.
75 residents at Windsor Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and 19 of the home’s staff members were infected. Before this outbreak, only one resident at the home had passed away from COVID-19.
The DPH said it ordered Integritus Healthcare, which runs the home, to stop admitting new residents to the home on Feb. 28. That same day, the DPH sent a rapid response team to the nursing home to help staff with resident care and outbreak control. The team consists of about a dozen nurses and nursing assistants who help the home’s staff give residents their medication, feed residents, help residents with bathing and going to the bathroom, and audit the staff’s PPE and hand hygiene practices, the DPH said. It is unknown at this time when or under what circumstances the home would be allowed to admit new residents again, but the DPH said it is still monitoring the outbreak.
The Boston Globe stated that 23 of the infected residents and five of the infected staff members at Windsor have recovered since the outbreak began Feb. 21. The facility is home to 89 residents, meaning that nearly 85% have been infected by the current COVID-19 outbreak. “We are in communication with the Department of Public Health and their rapid response team is working with us; and we are doing everything that we should be doing, in response to the outbreak,” Lisa Gaudet, a spokesperson for Integritus Healthcare told The Cape Cod Times.
According to DPH documents, three other long-term care facilities are not allowed to admit new residents due to COVID-19 outbreaks. These include Willowbrook Manor Rest Home in Millis and Westfield Center in Westfield, which were ordered to stop admitting new residents Feb. 22, and Dodge Park Rest Home in Worcester, which was ordered to stop admitting residents Feb. 28.
“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. The lowered immunity status typical of many nursing home patients, and the fact this variant evades immunity, will be the cause of 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.”