Dozens of veterans who died in COVID-19 outbreak at Massachusetts facility memorialized

Northeast

HOLYOKE, Mass. (NewsNation Now) — Dozens of people who died in a COVID-19 outbreak at a Massachusetts veterans home are being memorialized this Veterans Day.

A coalition dedicated to improving funding and care at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke is paying tribute to the 76 who died after contracting coronavirus this year, NewsNation affiliate WWLP reported.

Two former administrators of the facility, Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Clinton, were indicted on criminal negligence charges in September for actions that contributed to the disease’s spread. They pleaded guilty last week.

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition has created a virtual tribute honoring the veterans who died in the outbreak, sharing their photos and biographies.

“It is just a way for us to make sure that we honor their memory,” John Paradis, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and member of the coalition, told WWLP. “That we honor the military service of these veterans and we celebrate their lives.”

The coalition’s goal is to verify every veteran who died or contracted COVID-19 at the facility and honor their service. They’re also working to improve funding and staffing, while demanding better oversight of the facility.

“This is a small way we can extend our condolences to the families of the veterans,” Paradis said. “That they find some comfort and peace knowing that so many of us in their community have taken the time to remember and will continue to honor them.”

Investigators released a 174-page report in June citing the decision to combine two dementia wards, one with infected veterans and one without, as a major factor in the spread.

The report cites one employee who said the decision was, “the most insane thing I ever saw in my entire life.”

Another person quoted in the report told investigators it, ”felt like it was moving the concentration camp, we were moving these unknowing veterans off to die.”

Walsh and Clinton were both indicted in September on five counts of caretaker neglect of an elder or disabled person and five counts of causing or permitting serious bodily injury to an elder or disabled person.

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