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State health rapid response team deployed to Chelsea veterans’ home after new COVID-19 outbreak

As of Monday, 15 residents and 10 staff members had tested positive

During the pandemic, at least 31 people died from COVID-19 at the Chelsea veterans’ home.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

State health officials are responding to a new outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff at the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea, a new concern for a facility that was hit hard by the virus during the height of the pandemic.

As of Monday, 15 residents and 10 staff members had tested positive, according to Veterans’ Services Secretary Jon Santiago. A state Department of Public Health rapid response team was deployed to the home Friday.

Two residents have been sent to the hospital in recent days, both of whom have been able to return to the veterans’ home, according to the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services.

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“Chelsea Veterans’ Home staff are actively engaging with residents and their families to ensure consistent communication regarding the status of positive cases,” the statement said. “All family members of residents who have tested positive have received direct and personal updates from the nursing staff.”

Veterans’ home supervisors are directly communicating with staff members, and daily e-mail updates are sent to keep residents, families, and employees, the statement said.

The first positive case involving a resident was reported Wednesday. Officials believe a recreational event held May 28 was the origin of the recent outbreak.

After the first cluster of positive cases was identified, staff members set up multiple isolation units for residents, as well as other residents “who may subsequently test positive for COVID-19,” the statement said.

All 15 residents who have tested positive as of Monday are boosted with the bivalent vaccine, officials said. Fourteen of them are on therapeutics like Paxlovid, molnupiravir, and remdesivir to help treat their cases.

Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer for Tufts Medicine Health System and the hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, said she is not surprised to hear of a cluster of COVID-19 cases occurring in a place like a veterans’ home, where people are in close proximity.

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From the details released by the state, she said the veterans are well protected — they have been boosted and are receiving highly effective treatments.

“If you have that combination of being up to date on vaccination, and then starting treatment early, you really bring that risk... way down,” Doron said.

Doron, who also consults with the state’s health department, said that while the public health emergency has ended, medical workers have not forgotten about COVID-19. For those who care for patients and residents of nursing homes, COVID is something they work on every day, she said. While there was a cluster of cases, health officials were able to respond rapidly.

“Everybody sprung into action here to contain the outbreak, to protect the people, to test them, and to treat them,” Doron said. “Hopefully this is the extent of it — two people go to the hospital, and come out quickly.”

Santiago, who was chosen by Governor Maura Healey in February to serve as veterans secretary, said state health officials are ”taking a proactive and hands-on approach to this situation, implementing evidence-based measures, and working alongside DPH to monitor and provide the highest level of care to our residents and staff.”

During the pandemic, at least 31 people died due to COVID-19 at the Chelsea veterans’ home.

After Healey took office, she fired the Chelsea home’s then-leader, Eric Johnson, amid criticisms of mismanagement and the poor condition of the facility. The state inspector general is investigating allegations of financial wrongdoing, including questionable overtime payments.

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Mike Damiano of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.