Nearly 70 residents who fell ill with coronavirus have died at a Massachusetts veterans’ home, where state and federal authorities are trying to find out what went wrong during the deadliest outbreak at such a facility in the United States.
As the death toll continues to rise at the state-run Holyoke Soldiers Home, federal authorities are investigating whether residents have been denied adequate medical care and the state attorney’s office is weighing the possibility of filing charges.
“It’s horrible,” said Edward Lapointe, whose father-in-law lives in that nursing home and had a mild case of COVID-19. “Those people never had a chance.”RELATED
In all, 66 of the resident veterans diagnosed with the virus have died, authorities said Monday, and the cause of another death is unknown. An additional 83 residents and 81 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The asylum superintendent, who was placed on administrative leave, has defended his response to the situation and accused state authorities of falsely claiming that they were unaware of the extent of the problem at the scene.
Superintendent Bennett Walsh said earlier this month that st ate authorities knew the asylum was “in a crisis situation” regarding staffing shortages and was alerted early and frequently of contagions at the scene.
Staffing problems that plagued the asylum for years contributed to the virus spreading like fire, said Joan Miller, a local nurse.
Due to understaffing, employees in one unit were constantly on the move to help other units carrying germs, he added. At one point, a unit was closed due to insufficient personnel, and veterans there were transferred to other parts of the building, he said.
“The veterans were on top of each other,” he said. “We didn’t know who was positive and who was negative, and then they grouped them together and that exacerbated the situation,” said Miller, who had a mask and made remarks during a break at the facility.
“It was there that everything exploded,” he added.
The situation is currently “contained in some way” because there are very few veterans in the nursing home, Miller said. At the end of March, there were nearly 230 residents at the site and Monday there were just 100 at the site, according to a report by The Boston Globe.
Beth Lapointe said her father’s roommate was diagnosed in March and later died, but they initially refused to test her father because he had no symptoms.