Thursday, June 20, 2024

The Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in the Cambridge Highlands is allowing brief visits after a coronavirus lockdown. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Cambridge nursing homes are cautiously beginning to allow visitors to see residents after state officials gave the go-ahead Monday. They are imposing strict limitations in accordance with state guidelines to prevent transmission of Covid-19 to vulnerable residents.

The state Department of Public Health had prohibited visits since March 16. Now they can resume with restrictions, including masks for residents and visitors, 6-foot distancing, holding visits outdoors, having a staff member monitor all visits and barring visitors with coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat and sudden loss of taste or smell. No more than two people can visit a resident.

Two of the city’s three nursing homes have added their own limits. Neville Center at Fresh Pond allows visits only from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays and restricts them to 15 minutes. Sancta Maria Nursing Facility schedules visits on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a 30-minute limit that will be reinforced with a timer. Those who are late arriving will need to make a new appointment.

Cambridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center did not post information on visits on its website. An employee said visits are resuming and will follow state guidelines; she said she would refer questions to the nursing home’s corporate parent. No one called back Friday.

Two nursing homes have also begun disclosing more information on the number of residents and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 and the number who are currently infected. Neville Center, the nursing home with ties to city government and two public agencies, said on its website that as of Friday, 82 residents and 52 employees had been infected since the pandemic began. Two residents now have Covid-19, the nursing home said.

Sancta Maria Nursing Facility’s letter to families about resuming visits said there were no residents infected as of the previous weekend, May 29-31; it didn’t report the cumulative total. Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing has not disclosed numbers. The nursing home previously failed a state audit of its infection control performance; when retested May 29 it passed, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The state also reported the latest numbers of deaths among residents of nursing homes on Wednesday. Each of the three Cambridge nursing homes had two additional deaths in the previous week, for a total of 29 deaths at Neville Center, 19 at Sancta Maria and 19 at Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing.

According to the city’s daily case count, 70 residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers have died of Covid-19 as of Friday. That amounts to 73 percent of the total 95 coronavirus deaths among Cambridge residents, highlighting the extreme danger of the virus to nursing home residents.