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AG to investigate COVID-19 response at Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley

The National Guard arrived at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley to perform COVID-19 tests on patients in April.
The National Guard arrived at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley to perform COVID-19 tests on patients in April.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday announced her office is investigating Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley’s response to a lethal COVID-19 outbreak that killed 26 patients.

Healey said her investigation will determine whether “legal action is warranted.” The probe was launched in April.

"We owe it to the families who lost loved ones under these tragic circumstances to determine what went wrong,” Healey said in a statement.

The virus outbreak at the 120-bed facility in Littleton wasn’t the deadliest in the state, but municipal, state, and federal officials have accused the nursing home of withholding critical information as patients began to fall ill in late March. The facility has steadfastly denied charges it wasn’t upfront with officials.

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Zo Long, division vice president with Life Care Centers of America, the Tennessee company that owns the nursing home, said in a statement that the facility is cooperating with Healey’s office.

"We believe that documentation provided to the Attorney General will show how our team appropriately responded to a national crisis no one was prepared for,” Long said.

The national chain, which owns about a dozen other long-term care facilities in Massachusetts, is known for operating a nursing home in Washington state which suffered the country’s first reported outbreak of the novel coronavirus in February. At least 37 deaths have been linked to that facility, Life Care Center of Kirkland.

An investigation led by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found employees at the Seattle-area facility spread the virus to other nursing homes where they worked.

Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley said Wednesday that all staff and patients had recovered from the virus. The update said there are 64 patients at the facility, a decrease of 45 patients from when the outbreak began in March. State figures released Wednesday evening show 26 patients died.

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On April 24, the facility said 16 patients had died, 78 had tested positive for the virus, and 34 had recovered. There were 17 employees who had tested positive and another 17 who showed symptoms, but hadn’t been tested.

Maria Krier, a nurse there who publicly criticized the nursing home’s handling of the outbreak, died of COVID-19 on April 10.

The facility has said the first patient who later tested positive for the virus was hospitalized on March 27. All patients and staff were notified of the positive case the following day, the company has said.

A National Guard team tested patients on April 3.

During the first two weeks of May, the Massachusetts facility passed an infection control survey conducted by the state, records show.

US Representative Lori Trahan, whose district includes Littleton, said more than 20 patients and workers at the facility have died. She criticized the company for having 30 or more COVID-19 cases at its other Massachusetts nursing homes, including six that scored poorly on the state’s infection control audit.

Healey’s office is also investigating the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home’s response to a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed the lives of 76 veterans, making it one of the deadliest known concentrations of cases at a long-term care facility in the United States. Healey announced the investigation in April.

Federal authorities and an outside investigator appointed by Governor Charlie Baker are also investigating the Holyoke facility.

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Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.