April 11, 2020 – Family Letter
To Our Families,
We write to you now possibly during the most difficult time in our lives. Never in the 100-year history of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare have we faced a situation like this one. Despite all our best efforts and preparation, the COVID-19 pandemic facing the world has found its way within the walls of some of our facilities. Even more troubling, we now understand how pervasive the virus in our surrounding communities has become due to how swift and silent its spread has been.
Our residents are your cherished family members, and you have entrusted their health, well-being, and comfort to our team of staff, caregivers, and clinicians. From the day our residents arrive, they and you become part of the Chelsea Jewish Lifecare family. We never lose sight of our sacred responsibility to protect and care for our residents as we make all our decisions.
When we learned of our first few positive cases of COVID-19 among our residents at our nursing homes early last week, we worked under the guidance of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other local health authorities to take aggressive steps to prevent the spread of the virus. We created an isolation unit at the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in Peabody, transferring all residents in our nursing homes who tested positive and assigning a separate and dedicated team to care for these residents. We increased our monitoring of residents and staff to several times a day for any signs or symptoms. Any staff members with symptoms were asked to remain at home and self-quarantine. We also implemented a universal mask protocol for all staff while in our buildings. In addition, we immediately reached out to all our families to inform them of the situation and the many steps we were taking to prevent the spread.
However, our early efforts to stop the spread were blinded by both limited access to testing and overly restrictive criteria to test. Instead of waiting for testing to become available through channels ordinarily available to nursing facility providers, we proactively contracted with a private lab to begin the process of wide-scale testing of our residents in our nursing homes. We understood that testing more broadly would mean that we would discover more positive cases, as we know from the CDC that most of the people with the virus experience little or no symptoms. Despite this fact, we felt this was the right course of action to understand the true impact of the virus in our facilities.
As testing has progressed, the number of residents and staff who have tested positive confirms that we are not immune to the same spread seen across all senior care communities in Massachusetts. Of the 251 tests we have conducted across all our sites, 117 have tested positive to date. We have also tested 103 staff members with 40 positive results. Please keep in mind that most of our residents who tested positive are in stable condition, many are asymptomatic, and some are already showing signs of recovery. We continue to test all our residents to identify and isolate anyone who tests positive. Across our organization, we remain relentless in our efforts to keep the virus from spreading.
Further, it is with deep regret that we share that a total of 11 residents across all our facilities have passed away with COVID-19. The loss of so many of our loved ones is reflective of the severity of some manifestations of this terrible disease. We offer our sincere condolences to their families and share in their grief. We plan to honor and celebrate the lives of those we lost once this crisis passes.
We understand how incredibly difficult this crisis has been for our families. Prior to this pandemic, our staff and residents celebrated birthdays and holidays with you. Even now as Passover continues and Easter arrives, we remember times of shared joy and observance we now go without. Since the day we implemented a no visitor policy, we have felt our families’ absence. To aid our residents’ well-being and keep you informed and connected, we created a communications team and deployed staff and technologies to conduct video chats and phone calls. We know though that this is no substitute to being in your loved one’s presence.
In spite of the pain and worry we all feel, please be assured that our staff continues to care for our residents day and night to fight this virus. While this crisis has robbed us of all the small daily celebrations of life and moments of remembrance, we trust that through all the efforts and sacrifices of our wonderful staff, we will make it through this. None of us has the ability to predict exactly when, but we know it will happen. When it does, we will all allow ourselves the right time to grieve, remember, and rejoice.
With heartfelt sympathy,