Associated Press
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

BOSTON (AP) - Family members of veterans who died during a coronavirus outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home testified Tuesday before lawmakers investigating the outbreak that took the lives of nearly 80 veterans.

Susan Kenney told the Special Joint Legislative Oversight Committee she couldn’t get any information from the home’s administration after she found out about the outbreak.


“When I went to bed that night, I heard veterans were dying. I didn’t know how many. I spoke to my father’s case worker twice that day and there was no mention of it, which I thought was odd. I called the command center and didn’t get an answer for more than 30 hours,” Kenney said.

So she drove to the Soldiers’ Home with the message “Is my father alive?” written on the windows of her car.

Her father, 78-year-old Air Force veteran Charles Lowell, died of the virus on April 15.

In all, 76 veterans who contracted the virus at the home died, one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the nation. The home’s former superintendent and chief medical officer face criminal neglect charges.

Laurie Mandeville Beaudette testified that she learned that her father, James, tested positive in April after calling the nurses station and being told he was in a negative pressure room on a COVID-positive floor.

“The hardest thing I ever had to tell him was that it was okay to let go. I didn’t want him holding on just for me. It would be too selfish. It was awful,” she said.

The 17-member oversight committee is hearing testimony to understand the outbreak and recommend reforms. It is holding a virtual hearing on Thursday.

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HOSPITAL CLUSTER CONTAINED

A cluster of COVID-19 cases that affected nearly 60 staff and patients at a major Boston hospital has been contained, hospital officials say.

The cluster at Brigham and Women’s Hospital was identified Sept. 22 in two inpatient units, and 42 employees and 15 patients were potentially connected, the hospital said in a statement on its website.

The hospital has not had any new potentially contagious cases on the units that were affected since Oct. 3.

The possible factors that contributed to the cluster included a highly infectious source patient, several people with very high viral loads, inconsistencies in patient masking and the use of eye protection among providers, and a lack of physical distancing among staff while eating.

The likely source patient was not admitted because of the coronavirus, but had symptoms of a respiratory infection and twice tested negative for COVID-19, Dr. Michael Klompas, hospital epidemiologist, told The Boston Globe.

The patient infected a roommate who was then transferred to another unit, he said.

In response to the cluster, the hospital instituted an aggressive testing protocol for staff and patients, tested the HVAC system and thoroughly cleaned the affected areas.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

Massachusetts reported five newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and about 820 newly confirmed cases Tuesday, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 9,537 and its confirmed caseload to nearly 142,300.

The seven-day weighted average of positive tests stood at 1.3% - up from 0.8% a month ago. The true number of cases is likely higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 500 people reported hospitalized Tuesday because of COVID-19, and more than 90 in intensive care units.

The three-day average of the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients stood at 500, up from 364 about a month ago.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,293.


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