44 veterans have died at Holyoke Soldiers' Home, 100 test positive for COVID-19

The health care facility has seen a growing number of deaths amid the pandemic.

April 14, 2020, 3:52 PM

The number of veterans who have died at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, during the novel coronavirus pandemic has jumped to 44, according to state officials.

Of the 44 veteran residents who have died since late March, 36 tested positive for coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services on Tuesday. Seven of the residents who passed tested negative and there is one unknown, according to the office.

A week ago, the number of residents who had died was 25.

The Soldiers' Home, a state-run healthcare facility for veterans, is now the center of two investigations after the growing number of deaths and accusations from the staff that management did not properly protect those inside.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division are conducting a joint investigation, the agencies announced last Friday. That investigation will determine whether the facility "violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic," according to a statement from the agencies.

An ambulance and a health care worker with protective equipment arrived at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, March 31, 2020, in Holyoke, Mass.
Hoang "Leon" Nguyen/The Republican via AP

Gov. Charlie Baker has also called for an independent investigation by Attorney Mark W. Pearlstein, which will focus on "the events inside the facility that led to the tragic deaths of veterans in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, and on management and organizational oversight of the COVID-19 response."

Employees previously described to ABC News grim circumstances inside the home for both staff and residents.

The employees said they were not provided masks while tests results were pending for one resident, who they said displayed coronavirus symptoms. When that test did come back positive, the employees said they were not immediately told and that the roommates of the veteran who tested positive were taken out of that room and shuffled around to other rooms, leading to overcrowding and possible further spreading.

"They got moved into other bedrooms where other healthy veterans were. These veterans may be infected and now they're infecting others," Joe Ramirez, a certified nursing assistant who works at the facility and is among the staff who have tested positive, said in a previous interview.

As of Tuesday, 100 residents had tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Office of Health and Human Services.

There are 77 residents who tested negative and four residents who have pending tests, the office said.

The staff have also been tested, with 79 employees testing positive and 221 testing negative.

The Office of Health and Human Services said in the statement that veterans are being "moved and cohorted appropriately within the facility, and social distancing continues to be urged."

An extra four contracted staff and one nursing executive have also been onboarded to help support employees at the Soldiers' Home.

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