Baker vows to ‘get to the bottom’ of 15 deaths at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, at least 6 coronavirus-related

HOLYOKE, MASS. (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker says state officials will “get to the bottom” of what led to 15 recent deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, at least six of which have been linked to the deadly coronavirus.

During a news conference Tuesday, Baker announced two additional deaths at the veterans’ hospital, calling it a “tragic situation” and noting that he has visited the facility numerous times in the past.

“As someone who has visited this amazing place on multiple occasions and found it to be a source of joy and grace and comfort and kindness to the residents, their families, and the staff that works there,” Baker said, “This episode is a gut-wrenching loss that is nothing short of devastating to all of us. Our hearts go out to the families, and the loved ones, and the staff who have been so horribly impacted by this series of events.”

“I was absolutely shocked to find out,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “I was pretty upset that the city wasn’t notified and we were left in the dark about what’s happening there.”

Baker said public health experts are on the ground at the facility conducting a thorough review, which will include testing all of the residents and staffers.

“They are many of our state’s finest, all of whom served our country, and all of whom sacrificed on our behalf,” Baker said. “In the short term, our primary focus is going to be on stabilizing and supporting the health and safety of the residents and their families and we will get to the bottom of what happened and when and by who.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders said a clinical command team has been on-site at the hospital since Monday morning and members of the National Guard were there on Tuesday.

“Our priority is to ensure that the home is stabilized,” she said, adding that five of those who have died have tests pending, one tested negative for coronavirus and another is not yet known.

Those numbers were later updated to add another pending confirmation and another negative test.

Public health officials say 11 other veterans and seven staff members have tested positive for the virus.

Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh has been placed on paid administrative leave.

Attorney Mark W. Pearlstein will conduct an independent investigation of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and the events that led to the recent tragic deaths, according to Baker.

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