11 vets die at Massachusetts Soldiers' Home; 5 tested positive for COVID-19

The superintendent of the Massachusetts veterans home was placed on leave after a series of deaths, including those of some vets who tested positive for COVID-19.

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By Phil Helsel

Eleven residents at a Massachusetts veterans facility died on Monday and at least five of them had tested positive for COVID-19.

A state official said test results are pending for five others who died at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke. The status of the 11th person who died was unknown.

Eleven other residents have tested positive, as well as five staff members, and 25 more veteran residents are awaiting test results. NBC affiliate WWLP of Springfield reported the deaths at the Soldiers' Home earlier Monday.

The governor said a review by public health experts is underway.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Superintendent Bennett Walsh was placed on paid administrative leave, and Val Liptak, the CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, will take over administration of the Soldiers' Home, state Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Dan Tsai said in a statement.

The department also put in place an "onsite clinical command team" of medical, epidemiological and other experts to respond to the outbreak.

The center offers residential care and operates a 247-bed long-term nursing care facility, according to its website.

Holyoke is a city of around 40,000 north of Springfield. The city's mayor said he is heartbroken.

The Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.Google Map

"It has been devastating to hear about the full extent of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldiers' Home," Mayor Alex Morse said in a statement Monday.

"While I am grateful that the State is now taking swift action to ensure residents and staff get necessary care and treatment, I am grief-stricken for those we have already lost, and my heart goes out to their families and friends," the mayor said.

Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted that he has visited the facility many times. "The loss of these residents to COVID-19 is a shuddering loss for us all," he said.

Tsai, the deputy health and human services secretary, said the state is responding. "Today's actions underscore the state's commitment to our veterans and frontline health care employees during this unprecedented public health crisis."

More than 5,700 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Massachusetts, with 56 deaths attributed to the coronavirus illness, as of Monday, according to the state Public Health Department.

Nationwide, more than 161,800 cases of COVID-19 have been reported, including more than 2,980 deaths, according to a count of reports by NBC News. The numbers include those currently ill, those who have recovered, those who have died and those who have been repatriated to the U.S.