The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services gave an update Saturday on the deadly coronavirus outbreaks at Soldiers' Homes in Holyoke and Chelsea. Both are state-run, long-term nursing facilities for elderly veterans.
There have now been at least 22 veteran deaths at Holyoke — a number that has grown throughout the week since the state confirmed at least 11 as of Monday, and later at least 18. Of the 22 who have died, 16 tested positive for the coronavirus. Three tests remain pending, while two were negative and one is unknown, the state reported.
Overall, 59 Holyoke residents have tested positive and 159 have tested negative. Eighteen staff members have tested positive for the virus.
The Holyoke outbreak gained national attention this week as concerns mount about the virus' spread among vulnerable residents of senior living facilities. Holyoke staff told WBUR that poor decision-making by Soldiers' Home leadership factored into the severity of the virus' spread. The Baker administration has hired an investigator to oversee an independent probe into the deaths.
The state said Saturday that it moved Holyoke residents who tested negative for COVID-19 to Holyoke Medical Center on Friday, which set up a 40-bed, "specially outfitted" treatment unit to house them. National Guard members assisted in moving residents.
Additional Chelsea Death Reported
Meanwhile at the Chelsea Soldiers' Home just outside Boston, there have now been at least three veteran resident deaths — up from two as of Friday — with all three of the deceased testing positive for COVID-19, the state reported Saturday. Fourteen veteran residents have now tested positive, 19 have tested negative and six staff have tested positive.
All Chelsea residents will be tested by the end of the weekend, the state said, and staff testing will wrap up "in the next few days." The state is moving residents who have tested positive out of the facility in coordination with the Bedford VA Medical Center.
"The Commonwealth continues to respond aggressively to meet the needs of the veterans and staff of the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers' Homes, including deploying additional staff support, supplies, and resources for veteran residents, families, and employees during this unprecedented pandemic," a statement from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services said.
Families can request updates on Chelsea residents by contacting CSH@mass.gov.
Families can inquire about the Holyoke Soldiers' Home by calling a family hotline (413-552-4764) and also request updates via email at CommunicationsMailbox-HLY@Mass.gov.