COVID outbreak at eldercare home killed at least 80 veterans: ‘These guys never had a chance’

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They may have survived the dangers and terror of combat, but they couldn’t escape coronavirus unscathed.

At least 80 veterans from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in the Massachusetts city of the same name have died after contracting COVID-19, Fox News reports, noting that an additional 82 vets and 81 have tested positive for the disease.

“It’s horrific,” Edward Lapointe, whose father-in-law lives at the facility and contracted a mild case of the virus, told the network. “These guys never had a chance.”

Fox News adds:

The outbreak has now claimed the lives of nearly one-third of all residents at the veterans’ home, with a new fatality being reported almost every day.

With limited staffing, workers were forced to routinely travel to other units in order to provide help, which caused the virus to spread at an extremely high rate, according to Joan Miller, a nurse at the home. Some workers were without proper personal protective equipment, the Boston Globe reported.

Miller noted further that administrators at the home were forced to close an entire wing because there weren’t enough employees to work, which led to veterans being placed in close contact with infected residents.

“Veterans were on top of each other. We didn’t know who was positive and who was negative and then they grouped people together and that really exacerbated it even more,” said Miller. “That’s when it really blew up.”

A number of vets were in the age bracket where they were not only more susceptible to COVID-19 but were more likely to suffer from the most severe symptoms.

Prior to the outbreak, one-third of the home’s residents were 90 years old or older and needed round-the-clock care, the Globe reported.

According to WWLP, Superintendent Bennet Walsh, who has since been placed on administrative leave after the state stepped in to manage the outbreak, took a series of precautions, according to the minutes of a meeting that officials had with him prior to his suspension.

The station reported:

According to the minutes, Walsh said they were taking similar precautions to the flu, to protect their residents from Covid-19. He also said their Covid-19 response was approved by both the state’s Office of Health and Human Services and Dept. of Veteran Services.

Walsh also noted that they had been discussing Covid-19 precautions with the city, and were prepared to contact four outside agencies if the need raised for more staffing. Walsh’s attorney William Bennett told the I-Team Walsh’s documented communication with state officials has been handed over to state investigators.

Fox News noted that as of Monday, just 106 residents remained at the home, according to a spokeswoman for Health and Human Services, Brooke Karanovich. That has led some to conclude that the outbreak has crested at the facility and is on the decline.

That figure, though, is a decline from roughly 230 residents living at the facility in late March; 43 residents have since been hospitalized.

“We’ve mostly contained the crisis, but we have such a small number so that’s almost expected,” said Miller, according to the Boston Globe.

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Jon Dougherty

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