Sunrise View Retirement Villa and Convalescent Center Administrator Diane Lopes. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Sunrise View Retirement Villa and Convalescent Center Administrator Diane Lopes. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Leader of hard-hit Everett care home reflects on tragic year

Diane Lopes steered the Sunrise View retirement villa through the pandemic. She retired this month.

“Here we go,” Diane Lopes remembers thinking. “Here we go.”

It was about 1:30 p.m., March 14, 2020, a Saturday.

Two days before, two residents of the Everett care center she administered, Sunrise View Convalescent Center and Retirement Villa, had been admitted to a hospital. Now her director of nursing was on the phone confirming her worst fear. Both had tested positive for a deadly new virus silently spreading through the country.

In the nightmarish weeks that followed Lopes worked nearly nonstop as COVID-19 rampaged through her facility “like wildfire.”

“A very scary time,” Lopes called it.

Residents couldn’t get tested, staff lacked personal protective equipment, regulations seemed disjointed and authoritative information proved to be in short supply.

Lopes felt sad and helpless.

“We were very desperate,” she said. “Everybody was. Nobody knew anything. We knew nothing.”

Thirteen Sunrise residents would eventually die from COVID-19. Another two dozen staff and residents tested positive at some point. Some were hospitalized. Some showed no symptoms. All recovered.

Ten months later, near the end of what she called “the toughest year of my career absolutely, hands down,” she’s proud of the dedication of her staff and the support from her family. Her son and daughter helped out at the facility. Her mother sewed masks.

Lopes is still frustrated by many of the rules and regulators she encountered in the early days of the epidemic that she considered counterproductive.

She’s thankful for the supplies, guidance, empathy and understanding health officials now provide.

She’s disappointed that the continuing failure by some to care for others now has us confronting the highest number of COVID-19 cases and continuing shutdowns.

“We shouldn’t be here,” she said.

After 28 years leading Sunrise, Lopes, 60, retired this month. She returned to the care home Thursday to help as residents began receiving their first vaccinations.

“I feel like it’s a high,” she said of leaving on that optimistic note.

“We made it,” she said. “We made it through a pandemic.”

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