Chelsea, Mass., Creates COVID-19 Hotel Offering Residents a Safe, Free Place to Isolate

Feature: 2017 Culture of Health Prize community

    • July 31, 2020

A Q&A with Dr. Dean Xerras, medical director of MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center

This spring, Chelsea was hit harder by COVID-19 than any other community in Massachusetts. Partners in the city say the reasons for the high rate of infection are easy to see. About 8 in 10 residents are employed in essential jobs. Many also rely heavily on public transportation. Because of the high cost of housing, people may live crowded together under one roof. All of which made social distancing to avoid infection difficult for a large proportion of the population. And many Chelsea residents are immigrants, some of them undocumented with limited access to health care. More than 60 percent are Latino.

To enable the sick to quarantine, Chelsea and neighboring Revere, Mass., converted a nearby Quality Inn hotel into a safe isolation facility for people kicked out of their homes because of their COVID-19 diagnosis, or who feared being asked to leave. Dr. Dean Xerras, medical director of MGH Chelsea Healthcare Center, provided clinical oversight until the hotel closed on June 9, after the city's surge in infections had ended.

RWJF spoke with Xerras about how leaders from across sectors communicated with residents about the pandemic, how the hotel project came to be, and what the city has learned.

Chelsea, Massachusetts

This tiny city across the Tobin Bridge from Boston is tackling big urban challenges with innovation and heart.

Read more about this Prize-winning community

The Culture of Health Prize honors and elevates U.S. communities working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity for all.

Learn more about the Prize