WORCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Gov. Baker says the state will be using a mobile coronavirus testing unit at nursing homes across the Commonwealth to ensure more of the state's seniors are screened for COVID-19.
The announcement comes hours after the Governor's office hired a lawyer to investigate the coronavirus-related deaths of 13 veterans at Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Speaking to the press at the DCU Center in Worcester on Wednesday, Gov. Baker said his administration had received an update from the CEO of Western Massachusetts hospital, which is now working to make sure everyone at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home is tested for coronavirus.
"At this point in time I think all of the residents have been tested, and they are now in the process of making sure all the staff gets tested," Baker said. "This process is being led by a mobile testing unit that the [National] Guard put up, which we plan to use around the Commonwealth to test people at nursing homes generally." Baker said the mobile testing would happen "over the course of the next couple of months."
Baker revealed the plan to test more of the state's seniors a few hours after his office announced it had hired attorney Mark Pearlstein. A former federal prosecutor in Boston's U.S. Attorney's Office, Pearlstein will independently investigate "what happened, when it happened, and what didn't happen, and when it didn't happen," according to Baker, regarding the deaths of 13 veterans at Holyoke Soldiers' Home over the course of the last week.
On Tuesday night, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said he had received anonymous tips about the situation at the Soldiers' Home on Saturday.
When he followed up with the Home's Superintendent on Sunday, Morse said he was "shocked" to learn there had been "eight deaths between Wednesday and Sunday," none of which had been made public or reported to his office. Gov. Baker called it a "gut-wrenching loss."
Baker also confirmed on Wednesday there has been a second death related to coronavirus at the Holyoke facility's sister location in Chelsea.
“They followed all the rules and protocols that they are supposed to follow with respect to operating an elder care in a time of COVID-19 and reporting on critical incidents when they occur,” Baker said.