Hopeful Signs On COVID-19 At Belmont Manor, But Still A ‘Trying’ Month As Death Rise To 53

Photo: Belmont Manor where infections and deaths have slowed down

While saying April has been a ‘trying’ month, Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department, said the most significant COVID-19 hot spot in town has begun to stabilize.

Chin told the Health Board on Monday, April 27 the number of deaths related to COVID-19 has risen to 53 with 51 being residents of “a long term care facility” in town. Belmont Manor is the largest nursing home and rehabilitation center in the community and has been tied to the deaths in local and national news reports.

Since early March, Belmont has 159 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with the vast majority being residents and staff of Belmont Manor.

“It’s been really hard,” said Chin, noting the facility has “a lot of elderly with pre-existing health conditions, and they’re what you would generally think of as being the most vulnerable right now to the COVID-19.”

But recently it appears the epidemic that spread through the 130-bed eldercare facility has lessened.

“It seems like that situation is starting to get a little bit better. Fingers crossed. The rate of fatalities appears to be slowing down quite significantly so that’s really positive,” said Chin.

Chin said his department has regular check-ins with the facility’s staff and administrator while receiving daily updates with the Belmont Emergency Management Agency and the Belmont Fire Department.

At Monday’s Select Board meeting, Chair Roy Epstein said in a statement despite actions taken by the town to assist Belmont Manor, “COVID-19 is an unprecedented deadly and evolving threat to the town as a whole. Our first responders and town departments will work tirelessly against this danger.”

While no one knows when the COVID-19 emergency will be over, “your town government and grassroot organizations like the Belmont Food Pantry and Belmont Helps stand ready,” said Epstein.

COVID-19 Deaths Triple In Five Days To 39, Nearly All Linked To Belmont Manor

Photo: Belmont Manor in Belmont

The number of deaths in Belmont related to COVID-19 has more than tripled from 13 on Monday, April 13 to 39 by Friday, April 17, according to statistics compiled by the Belmont Health Department and released by the town on Friday, April 17.

Many of those deaths have been linked to residents of Belmont Manor Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, the 135-bed facility on Agassiz Avenue, according to Wesley Chin, Belmont Health Department director.

On April 15, when Belmont had 31 deaths due to the coronavirus, 30 were Belmont Manor residents. In addition, 59 members of a staff of approximately 190 are COVID-19 positive, according to the management of Belmont Manor.

In an April 15 email sent to families with loved ones at the site, Stewart Karger, the Manor’s administrator, said “every death represents an enormous amount of loss to the families of these individuals. And because many of these residents have been with us for a longer period of time, this feeling of loss is something that we at Belmont Manor share.”

Belmont town officials have begun recording deaths as one of two categories: Unconfirmed and confirmed by filed death certificate.

As of April 17:

Unconfirmed  31
Confirmed by Filed Death Certificates with the Town Clerk’s Office 8

“The Town Clerk noticed that there is a discrepancy in the information about CVOID-19 related deaths reported to us and what is later listed on the individual death certificates,” said Chin. “This is a problem that many other municipalities are experiencing.” 

According to Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman, the reason the confirmed number is much lower than is that her office “can only account for the Death Certificates that are filed as official records of the Town of Belmont.”

“I share with the Health Department all death certificates recorded in Belmont that contain the word “COVID” anywhere in the numerous fields on the certificates,” she wrote in an email.

It’s also important to realize that death certificates in Massachusetts are recorded in two places, the place of death (the occurrence community) and the place of residence (the residence community).  If a person is a resident of Belmont and perhaps is transported for medical treatment to Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, the death certificate would be recorded in both Cambridge as the occurrence community and Belmont as the residence community.

COVID-19 Cases Pass 100 As Belmont Manor Hit Hard During ‘Surge’

Photo: Belmont Manor

The number of residents with confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 keeps rising in Belmont, passing into triple digits with the town’s nursing homes continuing to get hit hard.

As of Monday, April 13, the state’s Department of Public Health has confirmed that 113 residents have confirmed cases of the virus, according to Wesley Chin, director of the Belmont Health Department, speaking before the Belmont Select Board on April 13. So far, 13 deaths have been connected to the virus.

In Massachusetts, there has been a total of 122,049 positive cases and 844 deaths as of April 13.

Approximately half of the positive COVID-19 cases and all the deaths in town have been residents of Belmont Manor, the 135-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center on Agassiz Avenue. Across the US, facilities such as Belmont Manor that treat or house older adults are now considered “an accelerator” of COVID-19, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said earlier this month.  

Chin told the board the numbers of positive cases in town will continue to rise for foreseeable future.

“We are in the surge period,” Chin said, “so expect this number to continue to creep up pretty significantly over the next week to 10 days” which requires the continuation of social distance standards.

“It’s really important that people continue to keep vigilant and wear masks when out in public,” said Chin. And while the federal and state governments only recommends their use, “it really is something that is essential that people do especially in supermarkets, grocery stores, anywhere social distancing is difficult to do,” he said.

Select Board members said they collectively have seen people congregate around town, at the Cambridge Reservoir, around the perimeter of the Grove Street Park and walking on conservation land without regard to social distancing practices.

“People need to be serious about this,” said Adam Dash. “I think wearing a mask and keeping away from other people is a fair thing to ask at this point in time, especially when we heard [Chin] say we are in the thick of this thing.”

The number of confirmed cases in Belmont in March and April:

March 111
March 133
March 2710
March 3114
April 756
April 1195
April 13113

Breaking: COVID-19 Deaths Soar To 13 As Virus Sweeps Through Belmont Manor [REVISED]

Photo: Belmont Manor.

Deaths in Belmont due to COVID-19 skyrocketed from 1 to 13 in four days as the coronavirus has swept through the Belmont Manor Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, according to town officials on Saturday, April 11.

“The Town of Belmont has received confirmation that to date thirteen residents of the Belmont Manor Nursing Home have died due to complications of COVID-19 (Coronavirus),” said Jon Marshall, assistant town manager in a statement from the town.  

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 among residents confirmed by the state Department of Public Health has more than doubled since April 7 now at 95, with 56 coming from residents of Belmont Manor.

According to the Belmont Health Department, since COVID-19 testing began, 59 percent of residents testing positive reside in some type of long-term care facility. The remaining 41 percent of Belmont cases are due to community spread, meaning there has been no clear source of transmission. The virus is impacting residents of all ages.  

“The Town has been in daily contact with Belmont Manor for several weeks and has provided ongoing support in their effort to address the virus and its impact on the facility.  The Town of Belmont will continue to assist Belmont Manor as it goes through this difficult time,” according to Marshall.

“The Town is deeply saddened and expresses its condolences to the families and staff at Belmont Manor,” the statement read.

On April 7, Gov. Charlie Baker announced the launch of a new Nursing Home Family Resource Line. The dedicated telephone line is staffed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. This resource was created so that family and community members have one central contact that they can reach out to if they have questions or concerns about the care their loved one is receiving during the COVID-19 outbreak. Family and community members can call the line at 617-660-5399.

The number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise throughout the state and in Belmont. On April 1, Belmont had 16 cases, a week later, on April 7, it had doubled to 35.


If you have symptoms, and you believe that you should be tested for COVID-19, first contact your healthcare provider. They will decide whether you need to be tested, but keep in mind that there is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and people who are mildly ill may be able to isolate and care for themselves at home. 

If your health care provider recommends that you should be tested, but their facility cannot offer the test, obtain a referral and contact one of the facilities on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health list of COVID-19 Testing Sites in Massachusetts.

Keep in mind that you may need to undergo an additional eligibility screening before you can be tested, and that these sites require an appointment, they do not take walk-ins.

Face Coverings 

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that individuals wear cloth face coverings when in public settings (i.e. grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) where it may be difficult to safely engage in social distancing practices.  This recommendation from the CDC is due to increased evidence of asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.  This refers to the transmission of the virus from a person who does not develop symptoms.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is important for all Belmont residents to begin engaging in this practice when in public settings where they may encounter individuals with unknown health statuses.  It is equally important to continue engaging in social distancing practices and to remain at least 6-feet way from others when in public.  

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about its recommendation for face coverings.

The CDC has also posted information on how to make your own face covering, including examples of both sewn and no sew patterns.

Grocery stores

On April 7, the MDPH released further guidance to promote social distancing at grocery stores. The new guidance requires that each grocery store limit occupancy to 40 percent of its maximum permitted occupancy level. It also sets out procedures by which staff should monitor occupancy levels. MDPH has posted new grocery store guidance on its website. 

Things to keep in mind when you go to the grocery store:

  • Follow guidance posted in-store and instructions from grocery store staff on social distancing.
  • Only send one person per family, leave children and other families members at home if at all possible.
  • Buy enough to extend how long you can go until your next trip, but don’t buy up too many of one particular item.
  • Shop at an off-peak time if possible. In the morning before 10 or 11 am tends to be the busiest time in many area stores at the moment.
  • Wear a face covering.

Medical Reserve Corps

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), is a national network of volunteers under the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Metro East MRC is the regional unit serving 18 communities, including Belmont. Currently, Metro East MRC volunteers are activated delivering food and medications, staffing call centers, and providing backflow to medical facilities in the region. Interested volunteers can sign up atwww.MAResponds.org by selecting “Metro East MRC” as their organization. Medical volunteers are also encouraged to join the “COVID-19 Response” team via MA Responds. Please contact Mia Nardini, Metro East MRC Coordinator, at 781-316-3177 or MetroEastMRC@Town.Arlington.MA.US with any questions.

Nursing Home Resource Line 

On April 7, Governor Charlie Baker announced the launch of a new Nursing Home Family Resource Line. The dedicated telephone line is staffed 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. This resource was created so that family and community members have one central contact that they can reach out to if they have questions or concerns about the care their loved one is receiving during the COVID-19 outbreak. Family and community members can call the line at 617-660-5399.

Belmont COVID-19 Informational Call Center and Email

For general COVID-19 questions not specific to the Town of Belmont, all Massachusetts residents encouraged to call the state’s 2-1-1 hotline that is staffed by operators 24/7 and with translators available in multiple languages.  Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone or use the live chat option at the Mass 2-1-1 website

The Town of Belmont has also established a COVID-19 Informational Call Center to allow residents to ask non-medical questions specific to COVID-19 in Belmont. The call center will be staffed Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm the number for the call center is (617) 993-2222. Questions can also be emailed to: belmonteoc@belmont-ma.gov .

Please call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. Calls should not be made to 9-1-1 to obtain information about COVID-19.

[The revised article has the correct number of deaths in Belmont at 13. An earlier version incorrectly noted the number at 19.]

Belmont Manor Seeks Assisted Living Facility On Pleasant Street, First In Town

Photo: A draft design of a proposed assisted living facility in Belmont.

In the first step of the commercial redevelopment of South Pleasant Street, the owner of Belmont Manor Nursing Home is proposing a 75,000 sq.-ft., 85-unit assisted living facility at 1000 Pleasant St. adjacent to the Star Market parking lot and the Belmont Car Wash.

The three-story building with 30 parking spaces would be the town’s first assisted living facility.

The proposal presented before the Planning Board on July 31 by Steward Karger, Belmont Manor’s full-time administrator, would meet the pent-up demand from aging residents “who would rather stay in Belmont” when they need more help with everyday tasks. Today, assisted living facilities in nearby towns are running at 95 percent capacity with a current need for 400 additional units. 

“It’s a use that’s needed in Belmont with minimal impact on schools and traffic,” said Karger.

The preliminary design calls for the 32-foot tall building to be constructed where a two-story office building owned by the Tocci family currently stands, said Andy Rojas, the project’s architect.

The plans call for three floors occupying between 23,400 and 26,100 sq.-ft. with units averaging from 400 to 600 sq.-ft. The first floor will have a reception area along with units with the second floor mainly apartments. The third floor will be dedicated to residents with dementia and memory loss. A basement will include mechanical space, staff break rooms, laundry area and resident services.

Rojas said the design is in draft form as the land will need to be rezoned – the site lies in an LB-2 zone – to allow for a third floor and a change in use without seeking a Special Permit. Rather than alter the town’s zoning map, Rojas suggested the creation of an overlay district, in which a special zoning area is placed over the existing base zone. The town has created overlay districts in Cushing Square to assist in building the Bradford complex, in the Oakley neighborhood and for the placement of medical marijuana facilities. 

Rojas said the best solution would be to overlay the town’s LB-1 zone on the site and extend it over the neighboring property owned by the Tocci family to Citywide Subaru at 790 Pleasant St. Rojas said with the overlay in place, “you’re going to see that this will be a catalyst for other things” along Pleasant. Rojas predicts the future redevelopment of the Tocci-owned Belmont Car Wash on Trapelo Road and its property further down the street “would be mixed use with retail [on the ground floor] and residential above.”

Despite available land adjacent to the proposed facility, Karger said there are “absolutely no plans” to move Belmont Manor from its current Agassiz Avenue location. He also said he is talking with the Tocci family on the purchase of the land. 

Reaction from the Planning Board was mostly positive with Chair Charles Clark saying it was a “very interesting proposal and a very positive development” in light of the recently passed Housing Production Plan which called for additional housing for the elderly.

The proposal is the second new development set to be built in the South Pleasant Street/Waverley Square. In June, the Zoning Board of Appeals approved the construction of a pair of retail/residential structures on Trapelo Road and White Street by local developer Joseph Destefano.