Following an outbreak of COVID-19 at The Soldiers’ Home, a veterans center in Holyoke, at least fifteen individuals have been confirmed dead. At least six of those tested positive for COVID-19 while six others are awaiting test results. On Tuesday, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said that The Soldiers’ Home failed to properly notify city and state officials about the death.
On Saturday, Morse said he was made aware of issues at the facility and asked Holyoke’s board of health to investigate the matter. On Sunday, Morse contacted the facility’s superintendent, Bennet Walsh, for more information, but said he was unsatisfied with Walsh’s response.
“What the response was, included that every patient, every resident that had passed away had an underlying health condition, as if that was some sort of explanation for the outbreak of coronavirus at the facility,” Morse said during an interview with Boston Public Radio on Thursday. “And we pressed him for additional information as to the breakdown in communication between the facility and the board of health. We were told he would check with his team and get back to us.”
Morse said his office has not been given more details about the communications between the facility and authorities. Since the facility is operated by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services, Morse does not have jurisdiction over its operations. On Thursday, Morse said that he hopes the Baker administration will be able to provide more information about what happened at the facility. On Wednesday, Baker announced he would be hiring former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein to conduct an independent investigation.
“I think it’s incumbent upon this investigation and the Baker administration to get to the bottom of this,” Morse said. “Both Walsh and [Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña] are both appointees of the governor, and I think it’s his responsibility to figure out what went wrong.”