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COVID-19 outbreak at Chelmsford nursing facility leaves 5 dead; state rapid-response team in place since Oct. 9

Sunny Acres Nursing and Rehabilittion Center.
Sunny Acres Nursing and Rehabilittion Center.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Five residents of a Chelmsford nursing home have died since Oct. 15 in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak, and dozens more residents and employees have been infected, according to a town official and the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Sue Rosa, director of public health in Chelmsfored, confirmed that 47 residents and 17 staff members at Sunny Acres Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center have tested positive for the coronavirus that has infected nearly 145,000 residents in Massachusetts.

A rapid response team from the state Department of Public Health “is working closely with Sunny Acres,” Rosa said in an e-mail Friday night.

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She deferred further comment to the facility’s director. The state’s rapid response team has been in place since Oct. 9

In a brief telephone interview Friday afternoon, Sunny Acres Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center administrator Jeff Schwartz said the five residents died between Oct. 15 and Thursday. He added that the facility has now “cleared its isolation period.”

Schwartz declined further questions and referred to a posting on the facility’s website that is signed by Schwartz and the administration.

“During recent routine COVID-19 surveillance testing conducted in late September, it was indicated that several residents had tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, it has proved impossible to keep this rapidly spreading and highly contagious virus out of this center.”




Residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes have been among the populations hit hardest by COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic, the virus tore through facilities across the state, resulting in high numbers of deaths. As of Friday, there were 25,452 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents and workers at the facilities statewide, and 6,323 deaths, according to the state Department of Public Health.

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In its statement, Sunny Acres said it has conducted more than 1,600 PCR tests on residents and staff and had not reported a positive test result for 15 weeks, until this September.

“We are following all state and CDC guidelines to try to protect our residents and staff,” the statement reads. “All family members receive routine updates on their family member situation, and administration staff have provided operational communication to families and staff as the situation unfolds.”

According to an Executive Office of Health and Human Services spokesperson, the state sent a rapid COVID response team to the Chelmsford facility on Oct. 9, and the team remains onsite helping the operators work toward preventing further spread of the disease. Two shipments of PPE from the state’s stockpile have also been delivered to the facility in recent weeks.

According to Schwartz, the facility has completed its 14-day period of isolation.

“The good news is that many of our residents have moved past their 14-day isolation period, and on the road to recovery,” he wrote. “We are monitoring their progress very closely.”

Schwartz also applauded “our courageous staff for their commitment and dedication in providing the highest quality of care to all our residents during a very challenging and difficult period. They are true heroes. We also want to thank our families for their support.”

Chelmsford is one of 77 cities and towns in Massachusetts designated high-risk in this week’s data, meaning they have had a daily average of more than 8 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, the Department of Public Health reported. There were 63 communities in the red zone in last week’s report, up from 40 the week before. The statewide average remained in the red zone, as well.

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Travis Andersen and Emily Sweeney of the Globe Staff.




John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.