State officials are monitoring a “cluster” of COVID-19 cases at the Holyoke Veterans home as 10 residents have tested positive for the virus since last weekend, according to the state Executive Office of Veterans Services.
Formerly known as the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home where a COVID outbreak killed at least 76 veterans in 2020, the facility has implemented universal masking throughout the facility and exposed staff members are being tested daily.
The residents who tested positive for the virus are all “recovering or exhibiting mild symptoms” and have not been hospitalized, the office said. They are temporarily living in an isolation unit within the home.
The first positive test came on Saturday and the 10th was confirmed on Tuesday.
“We remain vigilant in monitoring the situation in Holyoke, recognizing that although we are past the height of the pandemic, COVID-19 is endemic, and cases will occur,” Secretary of Veterans’ Services Jon Santiago said in a statement Thursday.
“Our team is taking a proactive and comprehensive approach while implementing evidence-based measures to provide the highest level of care,” he continued. “I wish those infected a speedy recovery and want to express my gratitude to all those working to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and staff.”
The office said it has a “strong supply” of personal protective equipment and rapid tests. Families can visit the veterans home but must wear a mask.
On Tuesday, staff at the home held a virtual meeting with families to update them on the cluster and answer questions, with further meetings planned over the next week, the veterans services office said.
The deadly outbreak in 2020 led to several investigations and the ouster of former superintendent Bennett Walsh and Dr. David Cannon, who were accused of neglecting veterans and are facing criminal charges.
Governor Maura Healey appointed Santiago, a former state representative and emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center, as head of the Office of Veteran Services in February while elevating the office to a Cabinet-level agency.
In August, construction began on a new veterans’ home that is expected to be completed in 2028. The $483 million facility will have 234 long-term-care beds, and most residents will have private rooms.
Since this new cluster arose this week, State Senator John Velis, who represents Hampden and Hampshire counties and is chair for the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, said communication with veterans’ families has been “seamless.”
“The changes we made to oversight and governance, you’re seeing that play out in this minor outbreak,” Velis said in a phone interview Thursday. “This is something we know about and some of the smartest minds in state government are trying to deal with it.”