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Massachusetts Attorney General Will Also Investigate Holyoke Soldiers' Home

Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Chelsie Field
Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey launched her own investigation Wednesday into the state-run Holyoke Soldiers' Home, where at least 25 veterans have died since late March amid an outbreak of the coronavirus.

At least 18 of the veterans who have died in Holyoke tested positive for COVID-19, as have dozens more residents and staff members at the facility. Last week, as the scope of the outbreak at the home that cares for roughly 250 veterans became apparent, Gov. Charlie Baker, who oversees the home, put new management in charge and began a probe of his own.

Healey said her office's investigation will determine whether she will bring charges against anyone in relation to the outbreak and the facility's response.

"Our office is launching an investigation into Holyoke Soldiers' Home to find out [what] went wrong at this facility and determine if legal action is warranted. My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones under these tragic circumstances," the attorney general tweeted Wednesday.

Healey's investigation is the second in-depth review of the Holyoke home. Baker last week chose Mark Pearlstein, a former first assistant U.S. attorney, to conduct an investigation of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home "and the events that led to the recent tragic deaths from COVID-19 within that facility."

The administration said Pearlstein's review will focus on "the events inside the facility that led to the tragic deaths of veterans" as well as the "management and organizational oversight of the COVID-19 response."

"I think we all are appalled by what took place at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home and especially about the lack of follow-through on standard protocols with respect to reporting," Baker said Wednesday during his daily coronavirus press conference. "Obviously, the attorney general has particular oversight responsibilities and we welcome her review."

Baker then defended his administration's steps to get a handle on the situation in Holyoke -- placing Superintendent Bennett Walsh on paid administrative leave, putting a clinical command team in charge of the home's COVID-19 response, and more.

"Since we were notified two Sundays ago at about nine o'clock at night about the situation there, we moved quickly to install a new management team and a command center at the site the following morning, and since then have tested all residents, all employees, and have established, with the help of Holyoke Medical Center, a COVID facility for many of the residents who tested positive at Holyoke Soldiers' Home and continue to pursue reforms with respect to care, isolation and infectious disease control," he said.

The governor said Wednesday that he has spoken to Pearlstein twice since he began his investigation.

"I basically said, 'if you have any problems accessing anyone or any information, tell me,'" the governor said he told the attorney.

In addition to the 25 deaths at the home in Holyoke, five veterans have died at the state-run Chelsea Soldiers' Home, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said Tuesday. She and Baker have said that they do not expect the situation in Chelsea to deteriorate as it appears to have in Holyoke.

"I don't think that we're looking at the possibility of another Holyoke in Chelsea, no, I don't," the governor said last week, adding that the Chelsea facility "followed all the rules and protocols that they are supposed to follow."

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