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Deaths, COVID-19 cases rise at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke 

  • The entrance to the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. Photographed on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/6/2020 4:20:01 PM

HOLYOKE — State officials announced Monday that 25 veteran residents of the Soldiers’ Home have died amid a coronavirus outbreak, with 18 testing positive for COVID-19 and another three who have tests pending.

In addition to the deaths, 59 veterans have now tested positive for the virus, as have 31 staff members. A total of 159 veterans and 179 employees have tested negative for COVID-19.

The National Guard continues to operate on site amid the outbreak. On March 30, five days after the first COVID-19 death at the home, the state suspended Superintendent Bennett Walsh and set up a clinical command center to deal with the contagion.

Over the weekend, 40 residents of the Soldiers’ Home who tested negative for the coronavirus were transferred to Holyoke Medical Center. The veterans are being accommodated in the hospital’s birthing center and outpatient cardiovascular center, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

On Monday, the state agency announced that it has hired additional nursing staff and that it is “seeking immediate staffing support through contract workers, per diem workers, and additional avenues.”

The state also said that it has brought on a new nurse case manager and care coordinators to support family communication at the Soldiers’ Home, in order to keep families apprised of the current situation. Additional contracted housekeeping staff have also been brought on site, state officials said.

Walsh has remained suspended since March 30, and Gov. Charlie Baker has hired a private attorney to conduct an independent investigation into what led to the Soldiers’ Home outbreak. Baker has not provided a timeline for the investigation’s conclusion.

At its monthly meeting scheduled for April 11, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home board of trustees is set to meet behind closed doors to discuss “the continued employment of an individual,” according to the agenda for the meeting.

The board will also receive an “operational update” from yet-unnamed state official, the agenda states.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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