One more veteran has died overnight at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, but the number of residents who have tested positive has remained stable for at least three days.
A total of 66 veterans have now died of COVID-19 since the first resident tested positive on March 21. Nine others have died of other causes during that time and the cause of death for one veteran is unknown, officials for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said.
An additional 82 veterans have been infected with the virus, meaning more than 70 percent of the nearly 210 residents who were living at the state-run home for elderly and infirm war veterans have contracted COVID-19. Test results are pending on eight other residents, officials said.
After state officials were alerted by the employees’ union and Mayor Alex B. Morse about their concerns that the virus was rapidly spreading through the facility, a team from Health and Human Services inspected the home on March 30. Before noon Superintendent Bennett Walsh had been placed on paid administrative leave and Val Liptak, CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, was asked to take over management.
Walsh, who reported in a court injunction that he is believed to have contracted the coronavirus, has denied any mismanagement and called any accusations of wrong-doing as “outrageous.”
The state quickly set up a clinical team of experts to handle different facets of the crisis. About 160 National Guard members who have medical, logistical or operations expertise are also working at the home to augment the depleted staff, officials said.
“This weekend the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home maintained adequate staffing across the home with strong support from the National Guard and staffing agencies,” officials said. More managers, including additional nursing executives, are also working at the home to try to stabilize the problems.
Over the weekend military chaplains also provided religious services to the residents at the home and those who were moved to a unit of the Holyoke Medical Center to keep them safe. The services are televised to each resident’s room and available to any veteran who wanted to watch, officials said.
Currently five independent investigations are continuing into the circumstances that led to the disease spreading. Gov. Charlie Baker said the investigation run out his office by lawyer Mark Pearlstein has no deadline and others are being conducted by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, Attorney General Maura Healey and the state House and Senate. State Inspector General Glenn Cunha has also announced he is expanding an investigation into the home that began on Jan. 30 to include the issue, officials have not said why the original probe was started.
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