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LHAND looks to protect Lynn’s elderly from coronavirus

By Gayla Cawley | March 16, 2020

LYNN — As the city continues to prepare for the potential spread of the coronavirus, Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development (LHAND) is taking steps to protect its most “vulnerable” tenants. 

The agency, which operates six elderly housing buildings that contain 353 apartments, is closing down its rental assistance and admissions offices for at least the next two weeks and deep cleaning all residential buildings on a daily basis, according to Peggy McClain, LHAND executive counsel. 

“Our offices are going to be open for staff to do work, (but they’re) not going to be open to the public,” said McClain. “That is a safety mechanism we’ve been instructed on through HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development). Our administrative offices are in, or connected to, elderly high rises, which increases the risk of infection for our most vulnerable tenants.” 

Older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease, are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization, the coronavirus has spread around the globe, with more than 152,000 cases and 5,720 deaths worldwide. As of Sunday, there have been 3,000 cases and 60 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. In Massachusetts, 45 of the 164 positive cases have been confirmed by the CDC. 

In addition to housing elderly tenants, LHAND manages 38 multi-bedroom units throughout 13 different locations in the city, according to information provided by the agency. McClain said the buildings are also being sanitized on a daily basis to protect those tenants who are part of LHAND’s Aided Family Housing Program. 

“For the next couple of weeks, we will be continuing with our deep clean and hope the worst of it will pass,” said McClain. “I would say people are nervous, but they’re nervous in general. Tenants have children in the schools (and) elderly tenants are worried they’re going to get sick and die, so we’re very worried about them. 

“This is affecting all the tenants. It’s the thing people are most concerned (about) and talking about.” 

In addition to the health concerns from the coronavirus, McClain said tenants are worried about the disease’s economic impacts, which could affect their ability to pay rent. 

To that end, McClain said Northeast Legal Aid, which offers free civil legal services to the poor and elderly in northeastern Massachusetts, is working with the state legislature to develop a fund that would provide financial support to people who are unable to work because of the virus. 

“We understand people need to work to pay rent and we just want to make that available to them,” said McClain. 

State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said the state legislature is “actively working on potential legislative and budgetary initiatives to provide relief for those impacted by COVID-19.

“We will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to make sure that we are doing all that we can to help residents during this urgent and rapidly changing situation,” said Crighton.