Eight residents of a Chelsea veterans facility who died in recent weeks tested positive for COVID-19 and there are more than 60 other confirmed novel coronavirus cases linked to the city’s Soldiers’ Home, state authorities said Tuesday.
The new numbers represent an increase in deaths of facility residents since the start of the pandemic; The Boston Globe reported last week that five of the home’s residents who had died were confirmed to have the virus.
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home offers residential and long-term programs to eligible Massachusetts veterans.
In addition to the eight residents who died and tested positive, 23 others and 42 staff members at the home have tested positive, according to the state. Staff who tested positive are quarantining and staying away from the workplace in accordance with public health guidelines, authorities said. More than 200 Soldiers’ Home residents tested negative.
“Some residents who had been proactively moved to the VA Health Care System for further monitoring and treatment are being readmitted to the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home," according to a statement from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. "Specific isolation and quarantine units have been established to be able to support residents who were transferred to the VA system and who are now stable and are being transferred back to the Home.”
Earlier this month, state officials had started transferring veterans out the Soldiers’ Home, including those who weren’t infected but were at high risk.
Chelsea is not alone in having a deadly COVID-19 cluster sweep through a Massachusetts veterans facility. Thirty-six residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home who tested positive for the virus have died, in what is considered to be the largest fatal outbreak of the virus to date in the state.
That facility’s superintendent, Bennett M. Walsh, was placed on paid leave from the state-run elderly care facility last month for allegedly failing to notify state and local officials that residents had tested positive for the coronavirus or follow safety procedures to prevent a broader outbreak. Walsh has denied the allegations and accused state officials of falsely claiming they were unaware of the severity of the outbreak.
In early April, Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said that officials at the Chelsea home had taken various steps those in Holyoke hadn’t.
“One of the biggest differences between Chelsea . . . and the Holyoke Soldiers’ home is, people were reporting,” Baker said of notifying state officials of new cases. “People were doing what they were supposed to do.”
Chelsea, a densely populated city of 40,000 just across the water from East Boston and Charlestown, has been hit hard by the pandemic, with 618 confirmed cases and 23 deaths as of Tuesday. City authorities believe the community has the highest per capita rate of confirmed cases in Massachusetts.
“We believe that Chelsea does have the highest rate of infection per thousand persons than any community in the Commonwealth,” said Chelsea City Manager Thomas G. Ambrosino in a recent e-mail.
In recent days, Roy Avellaneda, Chelsea’s City Council president, said city officials have repeatedly asked for more help from the state, including more testing of residents, assistance segregating COVID-19 patients to avoid spreading the infection, and greater unemployment aid.
In addition to the deaths at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, at least nine residents at Katzman Family Center for Living and one at the Florence & Chafetz Home for Specialized Care, both in Chelsea, died after testing positive for COVID-19.
John Hilliard, Matt Stout, John R. Ellement, and Hanna Krueger of Globe staff contributed to this report.