Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Speaks Out After 15 Deaths

Fifteen veterans living at the facility have died with at least eight testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

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The head of a Massachusetts nursing home for veterans where 15 residents have died after a coronavirus outbreak says he looks forward to an investigation ordered by the governor.

Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh has been on paid administrative leave since Monday. On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said an independent lawyer, Mark Pearlstein, had been hired to investigate what went wrong.

"I look forward to participating in that review," Walsh wrote in his first public statement since the fatalities. "During this crisis all our decisions were informed by the available CDD and DPH guidelines on COVID-19."

The deaths, first reported to state officials Sunday, have raised concerns about veterans and other people living in senior facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I am filled with grief and sorrow for all the Veterans who have died and I extend my sincere sympathies to their families," Walsh wrote.

Walsh said he first learned a veteran had been diagnosed on Saturday, March 21.

The mayor of Holyoke is speaking out after more than a dozen veterans died at the Soldiers' Home.

"The next day my staff called the familiy of every veteran at the Soldiers Home to inform them that a veteran had tested positive for the Coronavirus., Our focus then, and always, was the veterans and their families," he wrote. "Thereafter we provided regular updates to state officials about the number of tests and the results of the testing. We were all frustrated that the test results were often not available for 3 or 4 days and there was a delay between the time of death and confirmation of the presence of the Coronavirus. I regret any uncertainty that such delays produced."

The investigation will focus on the "management and organizational oversight of the COVID-19 response" at the facility, according to Baker's office.

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