Two more veterans pass away at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, 15 total

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The state has announced the deaths of two additional veterans at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, bringing the total deaths of veteran residents to 15 on Wednesday. 

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

  • 15 veteran resident deaths (6 positive tests, 6 pending, 2 negative, 1 unknown) 
  • 11 veteran residents have tested positive 
  • 7 staff tested positive 

Today, an additional two veterans residing at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, and one resident of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, died, testing positive for COVID-19. While every life lost to COVID-19 is a tragedy, these veterans lived long, full lives, and their service to our community will never be forgotten.

Brooke Karanovich, spokeswoman, Executive Office of Health and Human Services 

All residents have been tested and results for those will be available within 24 hours. The testing of all employees began Wednesday and all staff was screened. On Monday, 22News reported the deaths of 11 veteran residents at the Soldiers’ Home, five had tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the number of veteran deaths rose totaled 13.

Bennett Walsh who was the superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home was placed on paid administrative leave on Monday. Local and state lawmakers have called for a thorough investigation into the deaths of these veterans.

Governor Baker’s priority is to stabilize the Holyoke Soldiers Home and find out out what happened that led to the spread of the virus. There are many questions on how the coronavirus infected so many veterans and employees at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

The Baker Administration has stepped in to prevent the virus from spreading further here at the Soldiers’ Home. Governor Baker also appointed attorney Mark Pearlstein to lead the investigation.
Mayor Alex Morse wants to know why no one at the facility notified him or the state about the initial cases.

We cannot forget that these nursing and assisted living facilities are providing care to a vulnerable population of older residents, many of whom have underlying illnesses. The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home has consistently followed appropriate protocols regarding COVID-19 cases. Both facilities are intently focused on prioritizing veteran residents’ health during this outbreak. 

Brooke Karanovich, spokeswoman, Executive Office of Health and Human Services 

“I want this to be as thorough of an investigation as possible,” said, Mayor Morse. “I’ve heard unfortunate accounts of employees fearing retaliation even reaching out to me to provide information. An employee disciplined for wearing PPE. The culture there seemed toxic.”

Family members also weren’t getting any answers.

Susan Kenney, the daughter of a veteran t the Soldiers’ Home told 22News, “There needs to be communication with families. We did not receive a letter as other people have stated.”

Mayor Morse said family members are still calling him with concerns, even though the state set up a hotline for families with questions. The hotline is staffed by social workers Monday-Friday 8am-6pm and Saturdays 9am-1pm. The hotline number is 413-552-4764. The national guard is ensuring all residents and staff are tested.

Mayor Morse said he’s suggested moving veteran residents into other facilities, but the state so far hasn’t given any indication as to whether they’d be interested in doing that.

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