Don’t Harm the Vulnerable

The June, 5 2023 article in the Globe by John Hilliard, “State health rapid response team deployed to Chelsea veterans’ home after new COVID-19 outbreak,” reports that 25 persons were infected by COVID, probably at a party.

“Dr. Shira Doron …  [was] 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.”

Since we know that COVID can be spread by aerosols—tiny, invisible droplets—we are surprised that residents and staff were not better protected.

We know how to use layers of protection including gathering outside and avoiding indoor gatherings; ventilation; and N95 masks to reduce the risk of transmission.

The residents of the Chelsea Veterans' Home are all vulnerable to severe infection and death from COVID. Long COVID can lead to long-term disability. Professional staff are essential to the operations and infection can spread to friends and family.

Instead of congratulating themselves on a professional response to the outbreak, public health professionals need to reconsider the rush to drop mandates and get back to “normal.” Boosters and medical treatments are fine but it is far better to avoid infection.

Although children, elderly, and disabled persons and those with weak or compromised immune systems are at high risk, the rush to play at normal has led hospitals to abandon basic infection control procedures and place barriers to reasonable accommodations. Some whose survival depends on safety are effectively denied essential care. When hospitals stop admission testing for COVID, in-hospital infections increase.

The Department of Public Health should now intervene to require more stringent standards that are known to be protective in hospitals and group settings like elderly apartments, nursing homes, assisted living, and the Chelsea Veterans' Home.

Halberstadt lives in an elderly subsidized housing apartment building (POAH/Fairweather) with a current COVID cluster. He has gone to a better place to live for his personal safety while the health department addresses the situation.