Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in the Cambridge Highlands. (Photo: Marc Levy)

As many as 33 residents of Sancta Maria Nursing Facility have tested positive for Covid-19 since last week, according to the city’s health department, one of the largest outbreaks of the pandemic in a local nursing home. The report comes as the federal and state governments plan to end the Covid state of emergency May 11 and many people believe the pandemic is over.

An exact number was impossible to confirm Tuesday, but several sources indicated an outbreak. Reports from the nursing home itself posted on a Massachusetts Department website listed 17 new cases among residents over the previous weekend. The Cambridge Covid-19 data center, based on numbers from a state Covid tracking system known as Maven, disclosed 27 new Cambridge cases in long-term care facilities over that same weekend, a strikingly large increase.

The city doesn’t usually identify facilities where there are infections, but did so when asked about the reports from Sancta Maria and the spike in long-term care cases. Dawn Baxter, spokesperson for the Cambridge Public Health Department, said that as of Tuesday morning there were 33 new Covid-19 cases at Sancta Maria since the previous week, based on the address that Maven reported for people who tested positive.

“Our presumption is that the positive cases last week triggered a facility-wide testing regime that detected additional cases,” Baxter said.

The administrator of Sancta Maria, Thomas Gomes, has previously said he doesn’t intend to talk to the press. A recorded “coronavirus update” at the phone number for the nursing home Tuesday said that as of March 22, five residents and patients and two staff members had newly tested positive and all had mild disease. That was the most recent update.

On the recording, Gomes said Sancta Maria had “postponed” communal activities such as eating in the dining room and attending Mass. He said visitors could still enter the facility and added that “we implore you” not to visit if they had been exposed to the virus or had “the slightest symptoms” of infection. Visitors should also wear masks and stay away from common areas, the message said.

All the staff at Sancta Maria have received all Covid vaccinations for which they’re eligible, including a booster, according to the most recent report from the federal government, for the week ended March 12. In contrast, 77 percent of residents were up to date on Covid vaccinations. Residents face high risk from the virus because of their age and poor health; federal officials have recommended that they get two primary Covid-19 shots, as many as two boosters and a bivalent booster developed to protect against the original virus and Omicron variants, believed to be more resistant to vaccines.

Nationwide, 55 percent of residents and only 23 percent of employees at nursing homes are up to date on vaccines as of the week ended March 12.

Public health officials no longer rely on testing reports to estimate the status of the pandemic because so many people test at home and don’t report the results. Nursing homes are different because they are required to test everyone if there is one new positive case, and to report the results.