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Investigation wanted for deaths of 13 veterans at Soldiers' Home

March 31, 2020
In The News

HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WHSM) -- Government officials want answers and an investigation into what happened to veterans at the Soldiers’ Home who tested positive for COVID-19.

Some even died from it.

As of Tuesday, 13 residents in the soldiers home have died, according to the Massachusetts Health and Human Services. Six of them tested positive for the coronavirus. Five results are pending. One came back negative, and there’s another unknown.

State Rep. John Velis (D-Westfield), who is an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve, said an investigation is necessary.

“I think it's absolutely awful. It is shameful what happened up there. We need to do everything in our power to include an investigation to find out what happened up there. We owe it to the families, we owe it to the staff, and most importantly, we owe it to the veterans who lost their lives,” Velis said.

The union that represents the staff at the Soldiers’ Home said one nurse aide, who asked Western Mass News to remain anonymous, demanded protective gear when a patient showed symptoms weeks ago.

The aide was finally given a mask, not an N95, and received a disciplinary letter, calling them "disruptive" and" inappropriate” noting, "You put on a personal protection equipment without permission.”

Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) currently has an uncle in the Soldiers’ Home.

"I understand that anxiety. And the other part of it is you can't have visitors, and you haven't been able to have visitors for a couple of weeks. So the result is I think that causes heightened anxiety,” the congressman said.

Neal said he has not spoken to his uncle since hearing the news about the Soldiers’ Home. He did say that the Soldiers’ Home is keeping an eye on the veterans.

“Here I’ve been talking to his children, and they’re monitoring as you might expect hour to hour, and the Soldiers’ Home has been a very important part of veteran’s services. I think for all of this, we longingly hope that these individuals will be okay,” the congressman said.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse came out with another statement Tuesday night saying he's devastated to hear about the outbreak at the soldiers home.

“I call on everyone 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. While we need distance from each other now, we are in this fight together,” Morse said.

Along with the 13 deaths, state officials say 10 more residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 25 more have test results pending. Seven members of the home's staff have also tested positive.

A family hotline and email address has been established to help answer questions and provide support.

The hotline number is: (413) 552-4764 and is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.