Holyoke Soldiers Home Faces Second COVID Outbreak


Patrick Sweeney, Editor-in-Chief

In late November, another COVID outbreak occurred at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, which is no stranger to the disease. Western Mass News first reported the incident on November 30th, noting that 11 veterans tested positive. In early December, MassLive provided an update, with the number of positive cases increasing from 11 to 13. This is the second major outbreak at the home since the onset of COVID in 2020. 

The coronavirus first infiltrated the Soldiers’ Home in late March 2020, with 22 News reporting that “the resident [was] quarantined to a private room,” per a spokesperson for the organization. However, the outbreak did not end with that action. Then-Attorney General Maura Healey stated that the main cause of the outbreak spreading further was the “consolidation of two dementia units into a single unit.” 

As time progressed, more residents and staff members tested positive. All in all, 76 Soldiers Home veterans passed away because of COVID complications, which is most likely an underestimate. 

Now, the Soldiers Home is trying to stop the vicious cycle that took the lives of so many just two years ago. The situation has caused local lawmakers to take a closer look and ensure that history does not repeat itself. Massachusetts Senator John Velis said in a statement to Western Mass News, “One of the lessons that we learned from the [2020] outbreak [is that] there needs to be contingency plans for every set of facts.”

Velis added that his “main concern” for the present is the “rising COVID numbers.” He also questioned whether the Soldiers Home has a plan to move residents to “other facilities” in the event of another outbreak.  

The current outbreak comes as the investigation continues into the initial outbreak in 2020. A report published on the Mass.gov website “for immediate release” on June 24, 2020, confirms the investigation. Then-Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker suggested ways to “prevent or reduce the likelihood of a similar outbreak.” It is unclear whether the steps included in that report were taken in ensuing years.

All of this comes as coronavirus numbers are currently on the rise in the United States. Many health experts have expressed concern at the trend, citing a 7-day case average of just under 70,000 nationwide (per the free coronavirus tracker provided by Google). Data shows that the case number is the highest since September. 

Because of the rise, some experts have recommended that masks be reinstated around the country. In an interview with the New York Times, Vanderbilt University professor Dr. William Schaffner stated that people living in “high risk areas” should “put [their] masks back on.” 

The coronavirus is not the only disease threatening to upend the country this winter. Influenza cases are at the highest rate in a decade, with hospitalizations climbing. Additionally, many doctors have seen a peak in RSV cases, an infectious disease that attacks the respiratory system of patients, specifically young children and the elderly.