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Thirteen veterans at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Mass., died this month, and at least six of the victims tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Five other COVID-19 test results are pending, one result was negative and one was unclear.
An additional 10 residents and seven staff members have all tested positive for COVID-19, with 25 more results still pending.
“As someone who has visited the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home on many occasions to catch up with staff and residents, I am heartbroken by today’s news,” Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker posted on Twitter Monday. “The loss of these residents to COVID-19 is a shuddering loss for us all. Public health experts are at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home conducting a thorough review of the health status of staff and residents to plan appropriate next steps.”
Bennet Walsh, the superintendent of the veterans’ home, was removed for his duties and placed on paid leave following the deaths, according to The Boston Globe.
“As soon as the Executive Office of Health and Human Services learned of the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, it took immediate action, including instituting a leadership change and implementing a clinical command structure to bring rigor and clinical expertise to support the residents and staff,” an EOHHS spokesperson told Fox News.
“This new clinical command structure is intently focused on controlling the outbreak of the virus, under the direction of Administrator Val Liptak, RN, CEO, of Western Massachusetts Hospital, and is staffed with experts in clinical operations, infectious disease control and epidemiology.”
In a statement on Monday, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said that flags in the city would be lowered to half-mast in honor of those who died.
“It has been devastating to hear about the full extent of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldier’s’ Home,” Morse said. “While I am grateful that the state is now taking swift action to ensure residents and staff get necessary care and treatment, I am grief-stricken for those we have already lost, and my heart goes out to their families and friends. The devastating impact of this virus on an individual is made worse by the limitations on their loved ones to mourn and grieve in traditional ways for those who have passed.”
Morse said the deaths were a “painful reminder that while many people will experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, there are those among us who are at much higher risk, and we must be vigilant in our care for ourselves to ensure the safety of all.”
“I call on all Holyokers to consider your actions, to be sure to follow social distancing to the best of your abilities, to contact your friends and loved ones, and to take care of yourselves both physically and mentally,” Morse said. “While we need distance from each other now, we are in this fight together.”
As of Tuesday, Massachusetts had 5,752 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and at least 56 deaths.