Coverage of Hampden County, Massachusetts.

Mass. Lawmakers Hear Heartbreaking Stories About Holyoke Home Outbreak

Oct 20, 2020
Flags outside of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Miriam Wasser / WBUR

On one day in early March, Susan Kenney had been on the phone with her father's case manager at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, trying to set up a Zoom call with her dad, a 78-year-old veteran of the Air Force.

An early voting sign in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Early in-person voting starts Saturday in Massachusetts. Some communities deemed "high risk" for COVID-19 are saying they're ready.

The incoming bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Massachusetts, William Byrne, appeared at an introductory press conference in October 2020.
Adam Frenier / NEPM

Reverend William Byrne, a priest with the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., will be the new bishop of the Springfield, Massachusetts, Roman Catholic diocese. He replaces Mitchell Rozanski, who became the Archbishop of St. Louis in August.

The office of the bishop of the Springfield Catholic Diocese.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

As the Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield, Massachusetts, continues to address the problem of sexual abuse in its churches, congregants and others are being asked to fill out an online survey by October 19.

Rollerskating at Interskate 91 in Hadley, Massachusetts.
File photo / Masslive / masslive.com/photos

Some additional types of Massachusetts businesses are allowed to reopen starting this week, as long as the COVID-19 rates in the communities they're located in are low.

Mayor Domenic Sarno in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts, has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Domenic Sarno as it tries to bring back the city's police commission. 

Darryl Moss was fired by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno for violating a social media policy.
Douglas Hook / Masslive / masslive.com/photos

Longtime Springfield, Massachusetts, City Hall staff member Darryl Moss was fired this week. Mayor Domenic Sarno said in a press release Moss violated the city's social media policy. But Black community leaders and elected officials disagree with the mayor and are saying Moss, who is Black, was targeted.

Police cruisers in Springfield, Massachusetts.
File photo / The Republican / masslive.com

Updated at 2:00 p.m.

The Springfield City Council is officially suing Mayor Domenic Sarno, as it seeks to reestablish the city's police commission.

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey is bringing criminal charges against the former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Bennett Walsh, and the facility’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, for their roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the facility earlier this spring and killed 76 veterans.

Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Massachusetts officials report the rate of COVID-19 infections in the state has been relatively steady in recent days. But the head of Baystate Health Systems says the number of patients admitted to his hospital has increased slightly during the same period.

About 15 years ago, Zee Johnson opened what is one of only a few Black-owned bookstores in Massachusetts. She still does outreach work in the city for Springfield's Department of Elder Affairs.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Walking into Olive Tree Books-n-Voices on Hancock Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, is like walking into someone’s home. It's one of only a few Black-owned bookstores in the state.

Dana Nestor and Nina Fernandes at their new Northampton, Massachusetts, house.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Home buying and selling slowed down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but realtors in western Massachusetts say the market has picked up. 

Mohawk Trail Regional School in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Some western Massachusetts school districts — in areas deemed by the state to be "low-risk" for COVID-19 — are responding to a push to return to in-person learning.

Shane Dillon attends his school in Springfield, Massachusetts, from home.
Christine Dillon

Updated at 12:35 p.m.

At the end of the first week of this log-in-from-your-bedroom school year, Shane Dillon said it isn’t bad — yet.

Judge Nullifies Firing Of Bennett Walsh As Head Of Holyoke Soldiers' Home

Sep 22, 2020
Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Updated at 5:17 p.m. 

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders did not have the authority to fire Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh following a COVID-19 outbreak at the home, and Walsh's termination should be considered void, a Hampden County judge ruled Monday.

U.S. Representative Richard Neal, at an event promoting participation in the U.S. Census, outside the Sergeant Kevin A. Dupont Memorial Middle School in Chicopee, Massachusetts, on September 18, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

Massachusetts U.S. Representative Richard Neal said he hopes the courts force the government to continue collecting information for the census.

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com

Springfield, Massachusetts, officials say they've been making changes in the police department in response to a scathing report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

For their daughters and themselves, Mustafa and BeckyJean Thompson said they're relieved there's now more structure to the West Springfield, Mass., online school day.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Most Massachusetts public schools began classes this week after a delay due to the coronavirus. Districts,  independently of one another, developed their plans and many schools are teaching remotely. That means parents and caregivers are again juggling their work schedules while also acting as teacher helpers.

The MGM Springfield casino.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com

The MGM Springfield casino took in $18.4 million in gambling revenue in August. It was the first full month the resort was open after a lengthy shutdown due to the pandemic.

Diners enjoy outdoor dining with service on the patio at Johnny's Bar and Grille in South Hadley, Massachusetts, in June.
Don Treeger / The Republican / Masslive.com/photos

Some chambers of commerce across western Massachusetts said they've seen some restaurant closures due to the pandemic. And there's concern about what fall and winter might bring.

A PVTA bus.
Mark M. Murray / The Republican / Masslive

The head of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority said ridership is down significantly because of the coronavirus, but that the agency is surviving with the help of federal aid.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker this week praised Springfield's efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve, bringing the city's risk level from moderate to low.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a press conference Wednesday, September 9, 2020.
Sam Doran / State House News Service

Communities across Massachusetts have made "excellent progress" slowing the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday, praising Springfield’s approach in particular.

MassMutual's offices in Enfield, Connecticut.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Springfield, Massachusetts-based MassMutual is selling its retirement business, which represents about a quarter of the company's U.S. workforce.

Joanna Jaracz of Cummington, Massachusetts, after winning a blue ribbon for showmanship on September 7, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

Because of COVID-19, this year's Three County Fair was far different than in past years. There was no demolition derby, carnival rides, games — or the public. The fair was limited to arts and crafts exhibits and youth livestock competitions.

The drought map for Massachusetts as of September 1, 2020.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Much of western New England continues to suffer from a moderate to severe drought. But over the last week there was improvement in some spots.

Creative Commons/https://pixabay.com/photos/cable-distribution-electrical-1868352/

The Springfield, Massachusetts, City Council will hold a hearing on electricity costs Thursday. That’s after constituents complained their bills went up.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal at Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, as he declares victory in the 2020 Democratc primary against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield, Massachusetts, turned back a stern challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse to capture the Democratic Primary in the state's 1st Congressional District on Tuesday. With 88% of precincts reporting, Neal held an 18 percentage point lead.

Results: Contested Primaries in Western Mass.

Sep 1, 2020
At a polling place in Williamsburg, Mass., every other voting stall was taped off to ensure social distancing.
Sam Hudzik / NEPM

The polls are closed in the 2020 Massachusetts state primary. This campaign season has brought serious challenges to a sitting U.S. senator and the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. There are also contested primaries in a handful of state legislative districts in Hampden County.

A ballot drop box in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
Carrie Healy / NEPM

The 2020 Massachusetts primary on Sept. 1 will whittle down the candidates and offer a major test to the state's mail-in voting system.

For many cities and towns, Tuesday's primary is the first voting in a new coronavirus world.