REVERE – Linda Dubinsky loved the ocean view from her home in Lynn, where she and her husband Arnold lived for 40 years. It was an easy walk to their synagogue, Congregation Ahabat Sholom, where Linda was sisterhood president, Arnold was synagogue treasurer, and the couple was ever-present at celebrations and events. They served on various boards in the Jewish community, and Arnold, a CPA, had clients who trusted him and appreciated his affable nature.
Today, they are sheltering in place at the Jack Satter House on Revere Beach, where they get some pleasure from a sliver of an ocean view, but they know it’ll be some time before they can go outside.
Operated by Hebrew SeniorLife, all residents of the Satter House, which housed 285 seniors before the outbreak, have been directed by the city of Revere to remain quarantined in their apartments to reduce the risk of infection from the coronavirus. To date, the pandemic has claimed the lives of nine people who lived at the kosher oceanfront facility, among 22 residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, other Hebrew SeniorLife facilities have also been hard hit by the coronavirus. At the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, a 675-bed long-term chronic care hospital, 11 people have died among 111 who tested positive. At Orchard Cove in Canton, which has 255 apartments, four residents have died among 18 cases reported.
One of the nine residents who passed away at the Satter House was Barbara Levine, a 10-year resident who previously lived in Marblehead.
Levine, 77, had been vacationing in Florida, flew to Boston on March 10, and returned to the Satter House. “She had been home several weeks before she began feeling ill,” said her daughter, Risa Tracey.
“She stayed home to ride it out. We suspected it could be COVID. On March 24, she went to Mass General and they confirmed it. We had no idea there were already cases at the Satter House. Within one hour at MGH, she was sedated and put on a ventilator.”
Tracey said she learned about the cases at the Satter House at the same time her mother was admitted to the hospital. “They were limiting [visits] when my mother went in the hospital, but shortly after mom went into MGH, they put everyone in lockdown,” she recalled. “I have no problem with the Satter House. The state hadn’t shut down. Our leaders in government refused to shut things down. The governor started to put things in place. You can’t lay blame on anyone in the state or at the Satter House.”
A travel agent for many years, Levine ‒ who survived multiple bouts of cancer ‒ had recently returned from Egypt and was planning more trips.
“She was just a wonderful, loving, caring woman who enjoyed all the people around her,” said Tracey.
“She had a positive attitude and a zest for life.”
Coping with Isolation
“We were getting out — walking around the building, participating in events, attending Friday night services with Rabbi Lior Nevo,” said Linda Dubinsky of life at the Jack Satter House. “Before, we would see our kids and grandkids. We’d sit out front on the deck and have family gatherings. I miss them very much. But we’re in contact through FaceTime.”
Now, all meals are left for residents at their doors, as is mail and laundry. They cannot walk in the hallways or even open their doors for but a moment. Staff sing-alongs to brighten their spirits are held outside the building, and residents can open their windows to participate.
“They’re not letting anyone out of the building,” said resident Paula Weiner.
Dubinsky, who is 79, had a home health aide assisting her with daily needs. That was until she learned from the Lynn Health Department that her aide had contracted the coronavirus, and that she would have to monitor her own temperature and symptoms. The aide survived and, fortunately, Linda was not infected. However, she and Arnold, 85, are wary of having aides return, despite finding it difficult to manage on their own. “It’s amazing what you can adjust to,” said Linda.
Home health aides are screened before coming into the residence, said Paula Lowe, a spokeswoman for Hebrew SeniorLife.
Paula Weiner, who is 72 and in good health, has a wide circle of friends at the Satter House. She grew up in Malden, and recently lived in Haverhill. Weiner would step outside of the Satter House and walk Revere Beach with friends, attend Friday night services, play mah-jongg, give tours of the building, and volunteer in the coffee shop and grocery store where she got to know nearly all the residents.
Now, she walks around her one-bedroom apartment, enjoys the ocean view, and is grateful that the Satter House provides for all her needs.
“This place has so much: contests, sing-alongs with the staff from our window, grocery store deliveries,” she said.
She deals with the isolation by watching TV, playing games on her cellphone, reading the Satter Sentinel newspaper, and making lots of phone calls to friends, making sure they’re OK.
Like the Dubinskys, Weiner is grateful she is being kept safe. The staff is constantly spraying, disinfecting, vacuuming, and sanitizing railings and doorknobs, said Weiner.
Weiner had been a receptionist in a doctor’s office in Newburyport and was accustomed to being friendly and open with people. It’s something she’s looking forward to once again when life returns to some form of normalcy.
Loneliness is something residents are dealing with, said Lowe. Management encourages residents’ children and grandchildren to write cards, and send pictures and letters.
“We are trying to keep people engaged. Even some board members phone residents. We’re making sure people don’t feel lonely,” Lowe said.