Episode 197: Families Consider Removing Loved Ones From Nursing Home Hotspots; The C-19 Blues

This week on NEXT, New England states are still competing for COVID-19 testing supplies. But researchers at Yale University are studying new saliva tests that show promise. And with so many coronavirus deaths in senior living facilities, some families are considering taking their loved ones out. Plus, we hear from a country singer in Rhode Island about this catchy lyric: “Six feet apart or six feet under.”

Senior Living Facilities Are Coronavirus Hotspots. Now, Families Wonder If They Should Bring Loved Ones Home

Soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard talk with residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. (Army Spc. Samuel D. Keenan/Massachusetts National Guard)

Senior living facilities have emerged as hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic. In New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, data show that at least 60 percent of all COVID-19 deaths can be linked to these facilities.

One of the deadliest known outbreaks in the U.S. is at the state-run Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Mass. More than 70 veterans have died after contracting COVID-19, and many more residents and staff have tested positive for the virus. The veterans home is now under federal investigation.

Thirty miles away in Windsor, Conn., Kimberly Hall North has also been hit hard. Since the coronavirus outbreak, at least 46 residents at the nursing home have died — about a third of the residents. That’s according to Dave Altimari, an investigative reporter for the Hartford Courant. Altimari came on NEXT to talk about his reporting with Steven Goode that revealed what has unfolded at Kimberly Hall North. Altimari said outbreaks are particularly high at senior living facilities because residents live in close proximity and the population is among the most vulnerable. But limited testing has likely exacerbated the problem, he said. 

Because of the high risk of contracting COVID-19 at senior living facilities, some families are wondering if their loved ones would be safer outside these senior residences. WBUR’s Amelia Mason spoke with one family about their decision to bring their mother home.

Vermont Officials Say Traffic Data Show No Spike In Out-Of-State Entries

Vermont Department of Transportation employee Bonnie Davis counts cars entering and leaving Pownal on the Vermont-Massachusetts border. (Peter Crabtree/Vermont Public Radio)

So far, Vermont seems to have done a good job at slowing the spread of COVID-19. But neighboring states, such as New York and Massachusetts, are coronavirus hotspots. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says his biggest worry now is that visitors from those areas will bring the virus with them to the state. And as Vermont Public Radio’s Peter Hirschfeld reports, the governor’s administration has launched an unprecedented traffic monitoring effort to find out just how many out-of-staters are coming to the Green Mountains.

Vermont’s approach is gentler than some other New England states. Back in March, we heard about Rhode Island taking a more aggressive approach — with state troopers and the National Guard pulling over New Yorkers, and then all out-of-state drivers, near the R.I. border.

In New Hampshire, warmer weather kept police on the Seacoast busy last weekend, as cops tried to enforce beach restrictions related to COVID-19. The state is delaying reopening beaches because infection rates are so high in nearby Massachusetts. But that didn’t stop lots of motorists, pedestrians and even surfers from trying to enjoy the nice weather, New Hampshire Public Radio‘s Annie Ropeik reports.

Pandemic Robs High School Seniors Of Spring Sports Season

Ricardo Darius, a senior at Charlestown High School, poses for a photo outside his home in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood on April 30, 2020. Darius ran track for the school since he was a freshman. (Meredith Nierman/WGBH News)

On Tuesday, Connecticut joined the ranks of other New England states by officially canceling in-person instruction for public schools through the end of the academic year — a decision that also ends the spring sports season.

For senior athletes in the class of 2020, not playing that final season is another blow to the end of high school.

“Baseball … is this whole journey that didn’t have the right ending,” Paul Guiney, a pitcher and catcher at Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, Mass., told WGBH’s Esteban Bustillos. “It just has like an asterisk on it.”

‘6 Feet Apart Or 6 Feet Under’: Singing The ‘C-19 Blues’

Bob L’Heureux, left, with his wife, Marta, and son, Jackson. (Courtesy of Bob L’Heureux)

If you followed Boston’s punk rock scene in the 1980s and early 90s, you might recognize the voice of Bob L’Heureux, lead singer of the Busted Statues. Today, L’Heureux sings country and lives in Cranston, R.I. Like everyone, his mind is on the coronavirus — so much so he’s written a song about it. Alex Nunes of The Public’s Radio talked to L’Heureux about the moment of inspiration for the song, “The C-19 Blues.”

“It sort of comes out of that country tradition of love and longing and loyalty — being together and staying together, even though things are tough,” L’Heureux said.

NEXT Wants to Hear From You:

Last week, we wanted to know how you’ve been reacting to other people’s behavior during the pandemic. If you had something to say to your neighbors, what would it be? NEXT listener Kristen from Manchester, Conn., left us a voicemail and had this to say:

“They’ve been wonderful out in the parks by keeping their distance. But I really, really wish whoever is out there with a basement full of wipes and disinfectant spray, would give some of it back to the stores. … Please leave some of it for the rest of us.”

As we enter Week 8 or so of self-isolation, we admit there’s something satisfying about learning how others are coping at a time when most of our routines have changed. Some of us have developed new habits… but we’re really interested in hearing yours. From small daily practices to large projects, do tell us: What are your routines and habits right now, and how have they changed during the pandemic?

Leave a voicemail on our comment line: 860-275-7595. Or shoot us an email at next@ctpublic.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Also On This Week’s Show:

About NEXT

NEXT is produced at Connecticut Public Radio
Host/Producer: Morgan Springer
Executive Editor: Vanessa de la Torre

Senior Director: Catie Talarski
Contributors to this episode: Cassandra Basler, Beth Healy, Amelia Mason, Peter Hirschfeld, Alex Nunes, Esteban Bustillos and Willis Ryder Arnold.
Guests: Michael Ulrich, Dave Altimari and Ramona Santos.
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England”  by Goodnight Blue Moon, “So Blue” by Audio Jane, “Nowhere to Run” by Billy Wylder, “It’s A Conspiracy” by Kerrin Connolly, “Prologue” by The Mallett Brothers Band and “South Dakota” by The Wolff Sisters.  

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