6 Holyoke Soldiers’ Home staff members test positive for COVID-19 again

HOLYOKE, Mass. — Six staff members of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have tested positive for COVID-19, again

Everyone at the home was retested this week after one of the residents tested positive again on Monday.

The six staff members and the resident who were infected had recovered from COVID-19 already.

“The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home resident who tested positive on Monday has since tested negative at the hospital. Following this, the Soldiers’ Home proactively conducted testing of all residents and staff this week, and 6 asymptomatic staff who had previously tested positive but were clinically recovered again tested positive and were immediately sent home out of an abundance of caution. The Home has been implementing protocols for clinically recovered individuals per the CDC, and will continue to take full precautions for any suspected positive resident. This week, the Home is requiring a second round of full house testing for all residents and staff.”

—  EOHHS spokesperson

State official say the home has isolated some roommates and units, increased deep cleaning and increased personal protective equipment.

The resident who tested positive on Monday subsequently tested negative on Wednesday.

The daughter of resident Dennis Thresher, who tested negative seven times, says she’s worried about the new infections at the home.

“I’m frightened, I’m frightened for the veterans, I am frightened for the staff,” said Cheryl Turgeon, Thresher’s daughter. “This has already had a devastating impact on the home and the families and think that there could be a second wave coming...is just unthinkable.”

Despite never testing positive, Thresher, a Korean War veteran, was very sick. His daughter says he lost 30 pounds, had multiple fevers and an pneumonia.

“I hope that they bring in enough staff and possibly more [National] Guard so they have enough people to take care of our veterans,” said Turgeon.

The recent positive tests are raising questions about the accuracy of the testing and how people who are considered “recovered” are testing positive again.

25 Investigates learned families were only notified about this new round of infections after reports surfaced in the media.

Turgeon says she feels communication is much better between staff and families, but she would like to see more effort from the administration on up.

“They’re telling me that they’re doing infection control procedures, I’d like to know exactly what are you doing, what [protocols are] in place,” said Turgeon. “Our trust has been broken based on what happened in March and April.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, 76 veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home have died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

A report released in June was compiled by an independent investigator hired by Gov. Charlie Baker’s office. The report revealed a COVID-19 outbreak at Soldiers’ Home may have been unavoidable at the facility, but that errors made by a small leadership team ultimately led to a “horrific toll” of veteran deaths.

The report said that the first major error at the Soldiers’ Home involved combining two dementia units because of low staffing on March 27.

The second error, according to the report, came when staff failed to “promptly isolate patients suspected of COVID-19 using the rooms set aside for isolation.”

Bennett Walsh, the Soldiers’ Home superintendent, was placed on paid leave after COVID-19 concerns came to light. He was later fired after the findings of the governor’s independent report.

Sources tell 25 Investigates some staff members had been travelling to COVID-19 hot spot states in recent weeks.

It was only in mid-July that Health and Human Services adjusted its travel policy to require a 14-day quarantine to all employees travelling outside of New England, New York and New Jersey.

25 investigates obtained a copy of the letter sent to families on Thursday that says, in part, “until we have the results, we temporarily will be suspending family visitation for the next two weeks...we expect visitation to resume Tuesday, August 11, but will resume sooner if test results allow.”

A week later, four veteran residents and seven staff members of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke who previously tested positive and were deemed clinically recovered from COVID-19, tested positive again.


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