On March 23, 2020, The Massachusetts Department of Veteran’s Services announced the first Covid-19 case of a resident at the Soldiers’ Home. The department’s spokesman said in a statement “the resident has been quarantined to a private room. The proper local and state public health officials were notified and took appropriate public health measures.”
Four days later on March 27th, a decision was made to consolidate two dementia units into a single unit, a move that State Attorney General Maura Healey said allowed the virus to spread. A superior court judge later disputed that assumption.
On March 29, 2020, came the announcement that several residents along with staff tested positive for Covid-19 in the Soldiers’ Home. Following CDC guidelines the residents were isolated and employees were advised to quarantine until they are asymptomatic. Precautionary measures were taken in hopes to prevent future cases within the facility.
But by the next day, March 30th, The Department of Veteran Services announced 11 veteran residents at the Soldiers’ Home had died. The superintendent of the facility Bennett Walsh was put on paid administrative leave.
On April 3, 2020, The State Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders announced that 21 veteran residents at the Soldiers’ Home had died. At that time a total of 59 residents had tested positive for the virus. Those who had tested positive were being kept in isolation.
New Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Administrator Val Liptak started working with several agencies to focus on implementing immediate controls, staffing, and protocols to protect the health and safety of residents and staff.
Former U.S. Attorney Mark Pearlstein, who the Baker administration tapped to investigate the outbreak, concluded that Bennett Walsh wasn’t qualified to manage a long-term care facility and that his team was slow to respond. But in November 2021, a Hampden Superior Court Judge dismissed all criminal charges against the former superintendent and also former medical director David Clinton ruling the two men should not be held criminally liable for their actions in the early days of the pandemic.