HAMPDEN COUNTY

Coverage of Hampden County, Massachusetts.

Classroom chairs.
maxpixel.net / Creative Commons

Some staff at a Holyoke, Massachusetts, school for special needs students are alarmed that they’ve been called back into the building for in-person instruction; they don’t believe it’s safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, or beneficial to students.

Rev. Rashaan Hall speaks outside the Massachusetts Statehouse Friday, July 17, 2020. Hall is the racial justice program director at ACLU Massachusetts, and said qualified immunity has allowed police officers to escape civil liability.
Chris Van Buskirk / State House News Service

The Massachusetts Senate passed police reform legislation this week that looks to ban chokeholds, create a certification process for police, and limit the use of tear gas, among other things. The bill now moves on the House.

The family of Korean War veteran Joseph Sniadach, who died from COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, has filed a 

Mitchell Rozanski during a press conference introducing him as archbishop of St. Louis.
screenshot / Archdiocese of St. Louis

An advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors said he's filed a complaint against the Springfield Roman Catholic bishop, accusing Mitchell Rozanski of trying to cover up allegations against priests.

The Self-Defense Brigade Anti-Oppression Rally for George Floyd, at the Keney Park Woodland entrance in Hartford, Connecticut, on June 1, 2020.
Joe Amon / Connecticut Public / NENC

After more than a month of protests against racial injustice by police and the killing of George Floyd, some police departments are considering revising their policies on use of force. 

Slot machines at the MGM Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, with one shut down to promote social distancing on July 9, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

The MGM Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, says it’s ready to re-open and will strictly enforce the wearing of masks.

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

Springfield, Massachusetts, city and police officials have responded to a scathing government report that charges the narcotics bureau with a pattern of excessive force with no accountability.

Students in STCC's automotive technology program, which is slated to close.
Ramiro Soares

Faculty members at Springfield Technical Community College are protesting the elimination of seven entire programs, most of them vocational.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, was just about finished with a $24 million renovation when the virus pandemic hit. 

St Mary's High School in Westfield, Massachusetts.
File Photo / Masslive

The Springfield Catholic Diocese said its 13 schools in western Massachusetts will open in September for in-person learning five days a week.

Richard Parris Scott, with megaphone, is a recent graduate of the High School of Commerce in Springfield, Massachusetts. He's pictured speaking at Springfield City Hall in opposition to school policing.
Ben James / NEPR

School will look very different in September than it did last year. There will be more distance between students, masks on every face — and in some schools across the country, fewer police in the hallways. 

Naomi London of Northampton, Massachusetts, survived a serious case of COVID-19.
Courtesy of Naomi London

While some parts of the country are seeing surges in COVID-19, cases in Massachusetts are down — but not gone. So, with the governor's reopening plan underway, early survivors of the virus are hoping their experience will convince others to be cautious.

A police detective in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been fired after sharing a post on social media. According to a report in The Republican newspaper, the Instagram post showed a picture of the detective's niece at a Black Lives Matter event, holding a sign that suggested shooting back at police officers.

Two Black firefighters have named the past and current Springfield Fire Department commissioners in a federal discrimination lawsuit.
City of Springfield, Massachusetts

A federal discrimination lawsuit filed by two Black firefighters against the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, now specifically names the current and former fire commissioners.

Mary Crimmins, at center, with friends and family at Crimmins's birthday party in 2018.
Submitted Photo

Since the first recorded death in Massachusetts from the coronavirus, more than 8,000 residents have died. 

The Big E, a 104-year-old New England agricultural fair, is canceled for 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Courtesy Eastern States Exposition

The Big E — the giant annual agricultural fair in West Springfield, Massachusetts — is canceled this year, Eastern States Exposition officials announced Monday. In recent years, more than a million people have come to the area during the fair's two-week run. 

Flags outside of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Miriam Wasser / WBUR

An independent report looking into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home was released this week. It said the facility's management, under superintendent Bennett Walsh, made "substantial errors," which led to the death toll rising.

The first independent investigation into the deadly coronavirus outbreak at a state-run nursing home for veterans in Western Massachusetts was released this week.

Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh Challenges Pearlstein Report

Jun 25, 2020
Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

The superintendent at the center of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home crisis is challenging an independent investigator's conclusions about his qualifications for the job and hinted at potential legal action to fight his impending termination. 

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

An independent investigation commissioned by the Springfield Roman Catholic Diocese found allegations of sexual abuse against the late bishop Christopher J. Weldon to be credible.

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home on May 1, 2020.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com

Updated at 8:22 p.m.

Lawmakers, officials and others weighed in Wednesday on findings of an independent report that said leadership at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home made "substantial errors and failures" in handling a deadly COVID-19 outbreak. 

In 2019, the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, attracted more than a million visitors. Tickets for the September 2020 fair are available for purchase.
Courtesy of The Big E

Tickets are being sold for the Eastern States Exposition — or The Big E — in West Springfield, Massachusetts, known for livestock competitions, rides and fried food. The website even has a countdown to a supposed opening day, September 18. 

Report Details 'Utterly Baffling' Decisions at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

Jun 24, 2020
Soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard walk down one of the halls of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on April 1, 2020.
Army Spc. Samuel D. Keenan / Massachusetts National Guard

A report released Wednesday into the deaths of at least 76 veterans with COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home flags "substantial errors" the facility's leadership team made in responding to the outbreak.

Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena Vacates Post

Jun 24, 2020
Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena in a file photo.
File photo / State House News Service

There's a change in leadership coming to the Massachusetts veterans affairs office, which oversees the soldiers’ home in Holyoke where one of the nation's deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 occurred earlier this year.

Supporters of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home demonstrating in favor of renovations at the state-run facility.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

A group calling for major renovations to the Holyoke Soldiers' Home held its first of several planned demonstrations Tuesday afternoon. Seventy-six veterans living at the state-run facility who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in recent months.

Angelle Lopez before the graduation car parade at Springfield Central High School.
Courtesy of Angelle Lopez / Courtesy of Angelle Lopez

For Angelle Lopez, graduating from Springfield Central High School and moving onto college is a very big deal. 

Young@Heart, in a recent rehearsal, from their homes in western Massachusetts.
Screen Shot / Jill Kaufman / NEPR

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Young@Heart, the western Massachusetts chorus whose youngest member is 75 years old and oldest is 90, was forced to cancel in-person rehearsals. They started meeting online and making "quarantine videos."

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, at a press conference Tuesday, June 16, 2020.
Adam Frenier / NEPR

Five Springfield police officers who are currently indicted on perjury charges are once again suspended, two months after the police commissioner reinstated them. The officers are accused of trying to cover up a 2015 fight outside Nathan Bill's bar between off-duty police officers and four black men.

The order before the Springfield City Council, which will be discussed at a special meeting Tuesday.
Springfield City Council

The Springfield City Council Tuesday will hold a special meeting to consider whether to retain outside legal counsel. This is the latest step in an ongoing dispute with the mayor over bringing back the city's police commission.

Ula Richardson, 78, has continued to work part time, caring for the elderly, during the pandemic. She said building up her immune system and praying has helped her through the past three months.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

COVID-19 has been especially lethal to senior citizens. In Massachusetts, nearly 95% of the people who have died from the coronavirus were over 60. The average age of death is 82.

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