HOLYOKE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Gov. Charlie Baker has announced the launch of an investigation into the coronavirus-related deaths of 13 veterans at a Soldier's Home facility in Holyoke.
"The Governor’s Office has hired Attorney Mark W. Pearlstein to conduct an independent investigation of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and the events that led to the recent tragic deaths from COVID-19 within that facility," the statement said.
The announcement of an investigation in Holyoke comes hours after a Soldier's Home in Chelsea reported its first coronavirus-related death of a resident veteran. The facility said a total of nine residents and staff have been tested for COVID-19 so far, returning four positives (one of whom has died,) two negatives, and three pending test results.
"COVID-19 cases in the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home are being isolated, closely monitored, and tracked daily," said a statement from a Chelsea Soldiers' Home spokesperson. "We are deeply saddened to report today that a resident of our community died of this infection."
The announcement of the investigation in Holyoke follows a Facebook Live video on Tuesday night by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who said he had "received anonymous communication from folks affiliated with the Soldiers Home describing the conditions and the gravity of the situation" on Saturday morning.
Morse said since his office had gotten no response from the Soldiers' Home by the end of the day, he reached out directly to the Home's then-Superintendent Bennet Walsh on Sunday to "get a direct understanding as to what is going on."
Morse said he was "shocked on the phone call when the Superintendent let me know that there had been eight veteran deaths between Wednesday and Sunday, without any public notification, without any notification to my office, and also just no notification to the state government that oversees this facility in the first place."
In a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker called the deaths "a gut-wrenching loss," and vowed to "get to the bottom" of the tragic situation.
(Photo: Getty Images)