32 residents die of coronavirus at 2 Massachusetts Jewish senior living facilities

Penny Schwartz

BOSTON (JTA) – Thirty-two residents at two Jewish senior living facilities that are part of the same nonprofit network have died from COVID-19, and scores of other residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.

Eleven residents of Chelsea Jewish Life Care, across its three Boston-area locations, and 21 residents at JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow, a suburb of Springfield in Western Massachusetts, died, according to letters to families posted earlier this week on the websites of both facilities.

“The loss of so many of our loved ones is reflective of the severity of some manifestations of this terrible disease,” wrote Adam Berman, president and Barry Berman, CEO. “We offer our sincere condolences to their families and share in their grief.”

The pandemic is hitting seniors living in residential facilities especially hard. One of the first documented outbreaks in the United States affected a nursing home, and the death toll at Amsterdam’s Jewish senior home stood at 15 last week. Jewish homes, like many others, have adjusted their practices to try to curb the disease’s spread, but outbreaks are continuing nonetheless.

At JGS Lifecare, 93 residents tested positive out of more than 180 tests conducted, and 43 staff members tested positive of 84 tested to date. Across its sites north of Boston, Chelsea Jewish reported that 117 residents tested positive, out of 251 tested, and of 103 staff tested, 40 tested positive.

JGS Lifecare became part of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare in 2018. Combined, the nonprofit employs over 2,000 people and takes care of over 1,000 individuals, according to a spokewoman.

Chelsea, a largely immigrant city once home to a sizable Jewish population, has been hard hit by COVID-19, with an infection rate that rivals New York City’s. Many of its low-income residents are employed in businesses deemed essential.

The 11 deaths at the two Chelsea Jewish facilities in the city account for nearly 60% of the city’s COVID-19 deaths so far. As of Monday, Massachusetts reported 844 deaths due to COVID-19, with nearly 27,000 positive tests.