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Coronavirus cases at senior centers and nursing homes in Massachusetts are rising: ‘It’s a hot zone’

Littleton, Massachusetts.
Littleton, Massachusetts.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

One person died after contracting coronavirus at a Littleton nursing home, and at least four others connected to the facility have also tested positive, according to local officials — adding to the number of cases surging through assisted living and senior homes statewide.

Thomas Clancy, Littleton’s deputy fire chief, said Wednesday his department was aware of one COVID-19-related death at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley, a skilled nursing facility that also offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.

A second person there has also tested positive, and three others who were were transported from the facility to local hospitals later tested positive for the virus, Clancy said. His department has transported 17 people from the facility since Friday alone, including four on Wednesday, though he cautioned his department isn’t always alerted about someone’s status after they are taken to a hospital.

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“We’re taking full precautions every time we go in there,” Clancy said. “It’s a hot zone.”

It’s possible the numbers could rise.

James Garreffi, the director of public health for the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, wrote a letter to state health officials on Tuesday, criticizing Life Care Center staff for a “lack of cooperation” as it tried to investigate cases there.

Garreffi said his office had “recently” received a report that a patient and a staff member at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, but when officials reached out to obtain a list of people they had come in contact with, the facility was “not forthcoming.”

“I believe our role in the disease surveillance and reporting is extremely important to protect the staff and patients at this facility and the public in general,” Garreffi wrote to the Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality.

A message left with the director of the facility Wednesday was not returned. A spokeswoman at Life Care Centers of America’s corporate offices in Tennessee also did not return a call seeking comment.

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The new reports come as the death toll statewide continued to climb, including among the state’s most vulnerable population.

Six residents of the Jack Satter House in Revere who were confirmed to have COVID-19 have now died, the House’s parent company, Hebrew SeniorLife, said Wednesday.

State officials said Wednesday that 15 have died at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, at least six due to COVID-19, after an outbreak was publicly revealed earlier this week.

The Littleton location is one of 15 facilities that Life Care Centers operates in Massachusetts. A Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., was an early epicenter of the outbreak, with dozens dying, and other clusters have emerged at its facilities in recent days, including in Burlington, Kansas, and St. Louis.

The number of cases within Massachusetts nursing homes and assisted living centers have been growing, though precisely how many outbreaks are underway — and where — is unknown. The state so far has declined to release that information, though officials say they are now working to make it public.

Two seniors died at Norwood Hospital last week after a coronavirus outbreak sickened several residents of Charlwell House Health & Rehabilitation Center.

Laura Krantz of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout