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11 Veterans Die At Soldiers' Home in Massachusetts Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

More than 20 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, including at least five deaths. The nursing facility is about 90 miles west of Boston.
More than 20 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, including at least five deaths. The nursing facility is about 90 miles west of Boston.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Eleven veterans have died at a soldiers' home in Holyoke, Mass., where a COVID-19 outbreak is now threatening even more residents and staff. At least five of the people who died have tested positive for COVID-19; other tests are still pending in the case, which Gov. Charlie Baker calls "a shuddering loss for us all."

An additional 11 veterans and five staff members have also tested positive, raising the facility's overall total to more than 20 confirmed cases. More tests are under way to determine the scope of exposure to the coronavirus.

The Soldiers' Home in Holyoke's superintendent, Bennett Walsh, was placed on administrative leave Monday, according to member station WBUR.

The station also reports that Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse says the veterans' facility did not initially tell city and state officials that residents had died last week. On Tuesday, Morse said it wasn't until over the weekend, when he began to get anonymous tips, that the gravity of the situation became clear.

"In response to the outbreak, a team of people — including state medical, epidemiological, operational and logistical experts — has convened at the state-run veterans nursing facility," WBUR reports. "The National Guard was also brought in to help test residents."

The home in Holyoke, about 90 miles west of Boston, offers a wide range of services, from outpatient procedures to long-term care and hospice. Its main nursing facility includes 247 beds; a separate dorm building has 30 full-time residents, according to the soldiers' home website.

"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," Baker said on Monday. "The loss of these residents to COVID-19 is a shuddering loss for us all."

The facility was established in 1952 to provide services to veterans who live in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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