HAMPDEN COUNTY

Coverage of Hampden County, Massachusetts.

In the two years that 99-year-old John MacKay has lived at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, one of his family members has talked to or seen him every day.

Two employees of the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke reach out to one another, but don't touch, to say goodbye on March 31, 2020.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

This week, the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home became clearer. 

Mass. Gaming Commission Keeps Casinos Shuttered Until May 4

Apr 3, 2020
A quiet MGM casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 21.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

It will be at least another month before casino gambling starts back up in Massachusetts.

To keep its veterans safe as the coronavirus swept across the U.S., the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke started making big changes in mid-March. Like many other long-term care centers for seniors, the state-run facility focused on disinfecting surfaces and restricting outside visitors. It also started screening staff for symptoms.

But its efforts to prevent infection didn’t work; in mid-March, an elderly man in the memory care unit began showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

The Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on March 31, 2020.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / Masslive.com/photos

Two labor unions representing workers at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home said requests for access to more personal protective gear were denied by management as a deadly COVID-19 outbreak began in the state-run facility for veterans.

A day after health officials announced 11 deaths in a coronavirus outbreak at a state-run veterans home, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said Soldiers’ Home staff did not notify city or state officials last week after residents had died.

Storrow Drive in Boston, Massachusetts.
Phil Roeder / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder

Massachusetts drivers caught with cellphones in their hands are supposed to start getting tickets Wednesday, but police say the new coronavirus could afffect how strictly a new law is enforced.

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

As many as 11 residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have died in recent days — potentially all from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

That’s led to an abrupt change of leadership at the residential, nursing and outpatient facility for veterans run by the state of Massachusetts. 

UPDATE: Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said Tuesday morning that all employees and veterans at the Soldiers’ Home have now been tested for coronavirus and await results.


Eleven veteran residents have died during a coronavirus outbreak at Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, state health officials confirmed in an email Monday. Eleven other residents and five employees have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and 25 additional residents are waiting for test results.

Danilo Ferro assists a student in his eighth-grade special education math class at Amherst Regional Middle School.
Ben James / NEPR

Depending on their district and available technology, students find themselves with varying levels of daily work to do from home while schools are closed. The disruption in western Massachusetts has no doubt complicated efforts to address a major inequity.

Amina Meckel-Sam, at left, and Pearl Shread are juniors at Northampton High School. They co-lead the Students of Color Alliance.
Ben James / NEPR

Many educators want Massachusetts public schools — closed for now to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus — to be a leveling force, improving outcomes for students of color. But inequities in school services can be a barrier to student success.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette is based in Northampton, Mass.
File photo / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

The COVID-19 outbreak is taking its toll on some newspapers in New England. Already-sagging advertising revenues have dipped even more. That’s led to layoffs and other cuts.

Days before Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker ordered all non-essential businesses in the state to close, some already had.
Jill Kaufman / NEPR

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has ordered non-essential businesses in the state to shut their doors because of the coronavirus pandemic. But what is considered “essential” by the state could change.

Norman Pacheco is a special education teacher at Holyoke STEM Academy. "We need more teachers of color. We need more administrators of color. We need kids of color to see that there is a future beyond the ends of their noses," he says.
Ben James / NEPR

Public schools in Massachusetts are closed for at least the next two weeks, very likely longer. But when they do reopen, one persistent problem will remain: a shortage of teachers and administrators of color.

A memorial in Ireland for the victims of the Doolough Tragedy, an event during the Irish Potato Famine.
Sludge G / Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/sludgeulper

Americans have come to expect the opportunity to provide donations and other assistance when natural disasters strike. But the humanitarian concept was entirely new during what came to be known as the Irish Potato Famine. 

Homemade masks sewn by Northampton, Mass., clothing-maker Caitlin Carvalho, who is donating them to hospitals and other organizations.
Courtesy of Caitlin Carvalho

As President Trump has resisted using the full range of his executive powers to address the shortage in medical supplies like masks, regular citizens across the country are offering to hand-sew them at home and donate them to hospitals and other institutions. 

The Williamsburg Market has had twice the amount of business than usual. Sean Mallari and Steve Smith, who just bought the business this month, unpack a recent delivery that was much bigger than usual.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

While the goal of closing schools and businesses is to slow the spread of COVID-19, the impact on employment has been swift in Massachusetts.  

Edwin Nartowicz, 96, shoots pool at the senior center in Northampton, Massachusetts, last Friday before it closed because of the coronavirus. Nartowicz also likes to go to the YMCA, but it also closed.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Most people are limiting their contact with others to protect against the virus that causes COVID-19. This is considered especially important for senior citizens, whose immune systems may have more trouble fighting it. 

Tim Brennan.
Jerrey Roberts / The Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com

Western Massachusetts officials are remembering the life and work of Tim Brennan, the longtime leader of a regional planning agency. Brennan died last week of cancer at the age of 73.

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi speaks about new precautions at the Ludlow jail on March 16, 2020.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Jails in western Massachusetts have announced new restrictions to help stop COVID-19 from reaching the inmate population.

Baystate Health Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, where two dozen patients are said to be in isolation, suspected of having COVID-19.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Final update 11:54 p.m.

The latest numbers from the state of Massachusetts include no reported cases of the new coronavirus in Hampden, Hampshire or Franklin counties. But the state reported 15 more cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 138.

Massachusetts Casinos Closing For Two Weeks

Mar 14, 2020
The MGM Springfield casino from State Street.
Heather Brandon / NEPR

Massachusetts gaming regulators and its licensees agreed to a two-week shutdown of the state's slots parlor and two resorts casinos Saturday.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks with her presidential campaign staff, including her  Massachusetts state director, Jossie Valentin (second from right).
Submitted / Warren for President

It's been nearly a week since Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign for the White House following a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday, including a third place finish in her home state. Members of her campaign team are now deciding what to do next.

Providence Hospital in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Mental health workers are decrying the planned closing of Providence Hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Mahamud Ali Adawe is a refugee from Somalia who resettled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2017.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

A recent study shows that — per capita — West Springfield, Massachusetts, is fourth in the country for refugee resettlements.

Presidential candidate and Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders greets supporters at his campaign rally at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., on February 28, 2020.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / MassLive.com/photos

Updated at 11:11 p.m.

A few thousand supporters of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders rallied Friday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, a few days before voters in Massachusetts and 13 other states weigh in on the Democratic nomination.

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

Springfield, Massachusetts, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said this week her department is "shorthanded" amid retirements and difficulty recruiting new officers.

Police officers attend a Drug Addiction and Recovery Team kickoff event for Hampden County cities and towns.
Karen Brown / NEPR

A program in Massachusetts that offers help to drug users, as an alternative to arrests, started in Hampshire County. The Drug Addiction and Recovery Team (DART) is now moving into Hampden County. But police in Springfield aren’t taking part, and there’s little information about what they are doing for overdose survivors.

Mass. State Rep. Thomas Petrolati Announces Retirement Plans After 34 Years

Feb 19, 2020
Mass. state Rep. Thomas Petrolati speaks at an event in Chicopee in September 2016.
File photo / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Ludlow Democrat Thomas Petrolati, who once held the third-highest position in the Massachusetts House, will not seek re-election to an 18th term on Beacon Hill, his office confirmed Wednesday. 

Passengers disembarking from a Peter Pan bus in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 10, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

There's been a lot of debate about a new study from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on expanded rail service between the eastern and western parts of the state.

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