With COVID-19 dominating the headlines nationally and globally, it is still shocking to see what has happened in Massachusetts at a Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, where more than 70 veterans died in a short span. Families are searching for answers while the state is coming under fire for putting these veterans’ lives at unnecessary risk.

Families of the deceased veterans said that the home was not only ill-prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, but the home’s management also made poor decisions that unnecessarily put more veterans at risk leading to the death of many. Even health care workers who work at the facility called out the protocol, calling the facility at Holyoke, “a death trap.”

The facility is coming under increasing scrutiny as federal officials are conducting an investigation into whether the veterans were denied proper medical attention.

Bennett Walsh, the Superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in western Mass. has been placed on paid administrative leave. He insisted earlier in April that he relayed to the state government what was transpiring. According to Walsh, he informed that the facility was in “crisis mode” as severe staff shortages and the rapid spread of the coronavirus was crippling it and overwhelming the staff. 

“What kind of a system is this? We’re talking about 21st century United States of America,” Kwesi Ablordeppe, a certified nurse aide who has worked at the soldiers’ home for many years said in an interview with WCVB Channel 5 in Boston. “We’re talking about the veterans who put their lives on the line to save us, okay. And is that how we’re going to treat them?”

Ablordeppe makes a good point. It was learned that when the first Covid-19 case was diagnosed, the facility initially moved out the other veterans from the patient’s room. But then, inexplicably, moved other veterans in. Worse still, after the first diagnosed veteran became symptomatic, he was still shockingly allowed to use the common areas, thereby infecting others. 

Staffers at the hospital said that when patients started dying, rather than separating the residents from one another to lessen the chance of exposure, every veteran was moved to the same floor.

Six veterans were tightly clustered in rooms that had previously held four beds. Nine veterans were moved in the dining room, which was ill-equipped to handle sick patients and did not provide privacy. One staffer told the television station that while one veteran was gasping for his last breath and dying, right next to him, sans any screens or privacy curtain, another veteran was being fed.