18 veterans now confirmed dead at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Three more veteran deaths at the Soldiers’ Home have been announced by the state, bringing the total number of deaths now to 18 on Thursday.

According to the Office of Health and Human Services, the Soldiers’ Home has reported the following: 

  • 18 veteran resident deaths (12 positive tests, 3 pending, 2 negative, 1 unknown)
  • 23 veteran residents have tested positive 
  • 7 staff tested positive

COVID-19 continues to rip through the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home as more deaths and cases are announced every day. Paula Marcotte, a Holyoke resident told 22News, “We’re very saddened by all of it.”

I-Team: Superintendent of Soldiers’ Home defends himself and staff, says they followed CDC, DPH guidelines

Marcotte and her family have lived next to the Soldiers’ Home since the 1950s and before the COVID-19 pandemic, her 98-year-old father, a World War II veteran used their services. They say they knew something was going on almost three weeks ago.

“They weren’t allowing anybody to go in there,” Marcotte said. “No one from the outside could go in.”

She told 22News her concern only grew when they saw the arrival of the refrigerated truck next to the home on March 27. “Well, we kinda knew that that meant that there were people dying in there. And we hadn’t heard yet whether or no there was.”

Throughout New York, they’ve deployed refrigerated trucks such as the one at the Holyoke Soliders’ home to use as temporary morgues. We asked Mayor Morse if that’s what they’re using this one for, he said he cannot confirm nor deny but he will be looking into the issue.”

Morse contacted the state after hearing from an employee that positive COVID-19 patients were allegedly allowed to be around different units, potentially spreading the virus.

“Initially shocked by that news that it was allowed to get to that point,” said Mayor Morse. “And also incredibly disappointed and upset that there was no [word to the] board of health, to my office and then come to find out no communication to the state.”

The superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Bennett Walsh, was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday, the same day news broke about the death of 11 veteran residents.  Walsh issued a statement on Wednesday claiming he and the staff followed guidelines provided by state health officials.

Since the news of the cases at the home, the national guard is there to support testing and staffing needs. This situation at the home is developing, especially as all the residents are being tested for COVID-19.

The total numbers at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home were also reported as of Thursday:  

  • 2 veteran resident deaths (2 positive)
  • 9 veteran residents who have tested positive
  • 7 staff tested (2 positive, 2 negative, 3 pending)

Governor Baker’s office investigating deaths at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke

The state has now deployed the first mobile testing unit in Holyoke to test every single resident and staff. Personal protective gear and cleaning supplies are now available in the facility to prevent further spread. 

Governor Baker, Mayor Morse, and other lawmakers have called for a thorough investigation into the deaths of the veterans. Along with the new leadership at the facility, a clinical command group has been established to provide safe and appropriate care for the veteran residents.

Gov. Baker has also appointed Attorney Mark W. Pearlstein to lead the investigation in the situation at the Soldiers’ Home. He also ordered all state U.S. and Commonwealth flags be lowered at half-staff until sunset on April 5.

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